Odyssey Death And Rebirth In The Odyssey
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The Odyssey, by Homer, is a classical piece of Greek literature. Throughout
The Odyssey, the Blind Bard makes use of many literary techniques in order
to lend meaning to the poem beyond its existence as a work of historic fiction
and aid his readers in the comprehension of the tale. One of these techniques
is the use of motifs. A motif is a recurring theme that is used throughout the
work. In The Odyssey, Homer makes use of many motifs including
eating/drinking, Odysseuss anger, bathing, and disguise, just to name a few.
However, perhaps the most important of Homers motifs is the symbolic death
and rebirth theme. This motif is used throughout The Odyssey to emphasize
the growth and enlightenment of the characters. The first example of this motif
occurs with Telemachos early in the text. Telemachos, in book I, is visited by
the goddess Athena in disguise. In their conversation, Telemachos reveals the
pain and suffering that he is experiencing as a result of living without knowing
the status of his father, fearing that he is dead. “. . . and he left pain and
lamentation to me. Nor is it for him alone that I grieve in my pain now (The
Odyssey, Latimore, I. 242-3).” Symbolically, at this point in the text,
Telemachos is dead. He is willing to take no action to save his home from the
suitors or take any initiative to determine the status of his missing father.
However, his symbolic death is not without a rebirth. Athene, disguised as
Mentes, brings Telemachos back to life. She convinces him that he must take
action to preserve his household and determine the fate of his father. This
prompts Telemachos to take over his fathers role in the household and
journey forward to gather information about his missing father. His rebirth is
further carried out in the story when he is reunited with his father; together,
the two act to regain control of their household from the derelict suitors. The
next example of the death and rebirth motif occurs with our introduction to the
storys main character and hero, Odysseus. Homer introduces Odysseus on
the Kalypsos island. On a purely literal level, Odysseuss stay with Kalypso
would cause his demise as that was the fate of mortals who lived with
goddesses. On a more symbolic level, Odysseus was dead to the world as
Kalypso forbids him from leaving the island and forces him to do her bidding.
Odysseus was reborn, however, at the hands of Hermes, who was a
messenger for Zeus himself. Hermes tells Kalypso that Odysseus is to be
freed so Odysseus builds a raft and sets out for home. This symbolic rebirth is
emphasized by Odysseuss emergence from the ocean on the island of the
Phaiakians. He is washed ashore with nothing–his raft is destroyed and he is
completely naked. This naked emergence can also be seen as symbolic of
Another reference to this rebirth is found at the end of book V. “As when
a man buries a burning log in a black ash heap in a remote place in the
country, where none live near as neighbors, and saves the seed of fire,
having no other place to get a light from . . . (V. 488-91).” The phrase “seed of
the fire” is used by Homer specifically to make reference to the rebirth of
Odysseus; the term “seed” clearly brings to mind reproductive and birth
images that would not be associated with a less metaphorical reference.
Another instance in which Homer makes use of the death and rebirth motif
occurs with Odysseuss adventure with the cyclops Polyphemus. Odysseus
and his men are trapped in the cave of Polyphemus, which symbolizes their
death. This death is further emphasized when Odysseus refers to himself as
“Nobody”. As Homer later recounts, those in the underworld are truly
nobodies–they have no interaction with the living world and cannot even
communicate. Odysseus is reborn through his own ingenuity and cleverness
as he escaped Polyphemuss cave and announced to the cyclops his true
identity, once again making himself born into the realm of mortals. “Cyclops, if
any mortal man ever asks you who it was that inflicted upon your eye this
shameful blinding, tell him that you were blinded by Odysseus, sacker of cities

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Odyssey Death And Odysseuss Anger. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from https://www.freeessays.education/odyssey-death-and-odysseuss-anger-essay/