Conflict in The Odyssey

3 March 2017

The epic of The Odyssey by Homer is the second oldest surviving Greek text. The story contains many conflicts such as man v god, man v himself, and man v society. This paper will explore some of the important conflicts in this classic tale. Man v god is the most important conflict in the story. Towards the beginning of the story Odysseus goes to war against the Trojans and wins. What he doesn’t know is that the great God Poseidon favored Odysseus and his army and helped them win the Trojan War.

Poseidon becomes very angry with Odysseus’s choice in not thanking him and causes a great deal of troubles for Odysseus and his men at sea. Odysseus planned on going home but because he didn’t thank the great God of the Sea and he gets off track and lost at sea with his men. Odysseus is sent to many places and eventually get’s stranded on Calypso’s island.

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He is finally released from her island and makes a boat and begins home. While on his way home Poseidon tortured him but not enough to kill him, only enough to make him remember one lesson about humans.

His lesson is that humans are nothing without gods and it’s something Odysseus will never forget even while being at sea for twenty years. Another example of man v god conflict is Odysseus v Calypso. During Odysseus’s travel home he gets stranded on Calypso’s island. Her island is an island of all women who have never seen a male figure in their entire life. Calypso on the other hand hasn’t seen a male figure for as long as she can remember. His time spent on the island make Calypso fall deeply in love with him and wants him to stay forever; she even offers him immortality in return for marriage.

While being kept on the island, Hermes, Zeus’s messenger delivers a message to Calypso telling her to release Odysseus because it is not his fate to marry her; his fate is to be back with his wife in Ithaca and to save his family and his home from the suitors. So Calypso decides to release Odysseus and Odysseus eventually returns home with valuable lessons he learned at sea from the great God Poseidon. Another conflict that is evident in The Odyssey is man v himself. While Odysseus spends his time stranded on Calypso’s island he must battle his faith and stay true to Penelope.

Although Calypso loves him and offers him such a marvelous gift, the gift of immortality, it challenges Odysseus true being. While the gift of immortality grants Odysseus with a life of no death he is tempted. He questions what he should do; he begins to see things with his heart and not with his head. He still knows he loves Penelope and she loves him but his thoughts of her being already remarried have worried Odysseus. Odysseus turns down the offer of immortality and decides to build a ship and return home to his wife.

A second example of man v himself conflict is Penelope v faithfulness. While Odysseus is at sea for twenty years the suitors go to his home and demand that Penelope remarry because they tell her that Odysseus is dead. Because Penelope is true to her heart and feels that Odysseus will one day return she decides to weave a shroud that resembles a ship to give to Odysseus time to return home. When Odysseus finally returns home he kills all the suitors and finds out that he wasn’t the only one who stayed faithful but his wife Penelope also.

Another type of conflict that pertains to The Odyssey is man v society. While Odysseus is at sea for 20 years the suitors go to his home and demand that Penelope remarry because they tell her that Odysseus is dead. Because Penelope is true to her heart and feels that Odysseus will one day return she decides to weave a shroud of a ship to give Odysseus time to return home. She tells the suitors that she will make a weave and if Odysseus hasn’t returned home by the time she is finished, she will remarry.

While she is weaving, she tears it apart and starts over to give her more time. When the suitors finally figure out what she’s doing they get very angry. They decide to send Penelope’s son, Telemachus, to get word if Odysseus is dead. When he returns with word about his father, Penelope will have to. Although Telemachus returns with word that his father is dead, Odysseus later returns home and kills all the suitors in his home. In the end Penelope has remained faithful to Odysseus. A second example of man v society is Telemachus v suitors.

Because is it not proven that Odysseus is dead, the suitors send Telemachus on a voyage to get the final word of his father. The suitors are afraid that he will one day take over the throw and plan to kill him when he gets back so he can’t take over the thrown. Upon his return to Ithaca he brings news that his father is dead and the suitors are grateful, but what they don’t know is that Telemachus has lied to them because he found out his dad has returned and is at the farm outside of the town.

Telemachus and his father eventually team up against the suitors in a mission to take back what’s rightfully theirs and kill all those who don’t belong and have become traitors to Odysseus and his home. Conflict is essential to all storied and is evident in Homer’s The Odyssey. Three important conflicts include: Odysseus v Poseidon, Odysseus v himself, and Penelope v suitors. There are numerous amounts of examples of these literary plot conflicts. People today continue to struggle with internal conflicts, questions about Gods, and their role in society. This is what makes the story of The Odyssey so significant in the world of today.

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