The Odyssey

Odysseus and Gawain: Reminders of our Fault College

In the first chapter of his novel, How to Read Literature like a Professor, Thomas C. Foster discusses the idea of a quest narrative. "They [protagonists] go because of the stated task, mistakenly believing that it is their real mission. We know, however, that their quest is educational. They don't know enough about the only subject that really matters: themselves" (Foster 3). Essentially, while a hero may set out on a journey with a specific goal in mind, he will undoubtedly gain invaluable knowledge about himself along the way. At first, this explanation may seem extremely limited. If "the only subject that really matters" is the hero, why should any other person read their story? However, authors of quest narratives often write to enlighten their audience about the condition of humankind. Their message could focus on either the vulnerable, broken, greedy, or even ignorant condition of mankind. In the poems, the Odyssey and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, both Homer and the Gawain-poet send their heroes on quests in order to develop the idea that all humans, even heroic warriors and knights, are subject to fault.

In the Odyssey, Odysseus' goal is to reach home. At the beginning of the epic, Odysseus is found near the end of...

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