The Odyssey

Body Language: Injury and Identity in The Odyssey and Oedipus the King College

In describing the characters of Odysseus and Oedipus, Homer and Sophocles both avoid defining these men by typical physical characteristics such as stature or distinctive facial features. Instead, these authors focus on detailing specific bodily wounds that function as embodiments of each character’s identity. Parallel plotlines in The Odyssey and Oedipus the King reveal the symbolic significance of Odysseus’s scar as well as that of Oedipus’s swollen foot and gouged-out eyes. In both works, the infliction of these injuries is essential to the characters’ fates, with the specific degree of personal involvement in the creation of these wounds functioning as a reflection of the amount of control each man respectively has over his life. Furthermore, Odysseus’s scar and Oedipus’s swollen foot, as the signs and proofs of their origins, allow for others to recognize them. However, the true nature and significance of these injuries, while symbolically similar, differ: for Odysseus, his scar is a key to redemption, while for Oedipus, his swollen foot and damaged eyes are inescapable markers of his cursed fate, representative of his ultimate destruction.

Throughout The Odyssey, Odysseus, known for his wits and cleverness, hides his...

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