The Odyssey

Sleep and Death in Homer's Odyssey

In the Odyssey, Homer uses the idea of sleep to represent the idea of death, which makes the struggle to remain conscious and the struggle to remain alive one in the same struggle. Odysseus is constantly fighting to remain alert, to avoid monotony. It is this metaphorical insomnia that enables Odysseus to return to his native land. However, in the end, sleep is an inevitable part of being alive, just as death is. Odysseus, being human, cannot avoid this. A way to delayif not to transcendboth sleep and death though is through storytelling.

Sleep is death's representative on earth. The most important distinction that can in fact be drawn between sleep and death is that death is a permanent state of affairs, and therefore carries with it a more negative connotation. Penelope defines sleep as "the oblivion of all/ things, both good and evil" (20:85). Such is death. Sleep has the ability to "quiet" (12:31) as does death. Furthermore, when describing how Telemechos slaughters the maids guilty of treason, Homer employs a metaphor by saying that "the sleep," the death, "given them was hateful;/ so their heads were all in a line, and each had her neck caught/ fast in a noose, so that their death...

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