The Odyssey

The Insignificance of Human Power in The Odyssey

When reading the works of Homer, we find that an ever-present theme in his poetry is the relative insignificance of mortals and their creations. Relative, that is, to the much grander scale of the natural world. Yet in Homeric terms the natural world is much different than the natural world we know, and the most important element in Homer's world is the role of the gods. In Homer's works, gods and their actions, though they may seem strange and irrational to us, are simply understood as a part of everyday life. In the Iliad, a theme that was presented showed the reader the impermanence of human life and that which it creates, especially in comparison with the gods and nature. In the Odyssey, rather than presenting a theme showing the insignificance of human life, Homer shows us the insignificance of human power.

An aspect of the poem that immensely reinforces the idea that humans have little power in this world is the journey that Odysseus makes to reach his home. However, the key elements that weave the message into his journey are presented in the poem even before we learn the details of his homeward voyage. In Book 4, King Menelaus of Sparta, a comrade of Odysseus in the Trojan War, tells Odysseus' son Telemachus...

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