The Odyssey

Godlike Struggle and Artful Existence

Readers of the Odyssey could certainly find frustration in crafting a judgment of Odysseus’ decision to depart from life alongside the goddess Kalypso. Some might point to a yearning for his day of homecoming. Others might argue precisely the opposite – that “godlike Odysseus” simply grows tired of the secluded life and yearns for his next adventure. And all could be, at least in part, correct. An interpretation of this moment in the poem hinges on the question of Odysseus’ motivations, and of what kind of hero Homer intended for Odysseus to be. At least for some time, Odysseus is satisfied with Kalypso’s company and enjoys their arrangement. Why, then, does she find him sitting by the seashore, with eyes “never wiped dry of tears,” lying beside her at night “of necessity” and “against his will?” (V, 151-155). And why won’t he accept the offer to spend eternity alongside Kalypso, the immortal, ageless beauty? Perhaps most confusing of all is his decision to spend one final night at her side, once she promises to send him on his way towards home. If Odysseus is to be our hero, then his decisions must reflect Homer’s image of heroism. A close look at the moment of this decision renders Odysseus a hero not just in the epic sense,...

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