Odyssey by Homer is a story about a brave hero who wants to return home after the Trojan War. His return is too complicated and too lengthy. Going home, Odysseus overstays for 20 years. All this time he dreams of seeing his wife and his son. Family is the only wish he strives for.
The story starts with the following words, “Speak memory – of the cunning hero, the wanderer, brown off course time and again after he plundered Troy’s sacred heights… By now, all others who had fought at Troy – at least those who had survived the war and the sea – were safety back home. Only Odysseus still longed to return to his home and his wife.”1
Odysseus had to survive many complications and tests. 20 long years he struggled with various difficulties for coming home to his lovely wife, Penelope, and their son Telemachus.
Being a good father and an excellent husband, Odysseus did everything he could to return home, however, there were a number of barriers, however, having returned home Odysseus killed all people who wanted evil to his son and all men who tried to convince Penelope to get married with them, therefore, the family feelings and the desire to protect his wife are the most important ones for Odysseus as this is exactly what he tried to achieve.
Trying to consider what Odysseus had to overcome to get home, it is essential to understand the reasons of his lengthy journey home. 20 years Odysseus was absent. 10 years of war in Troy are over and the way is free to get home, however, Poseidon, one of the most severe enemies of Odysseus, does all possible to prevent his from returning home.
Poseidon has the reason to be angry with Odysseus, he blinded his son the Cyclops Polyphemus, therefore, he has to suffer as well. Nothing makes Odysseus fight for returning home than his love to wife. Odysseus has to come through many barriers, he has to fight with the gods, he must overcame the sirens, and a witch and suffer at other situations presented by the fate, however, he managed to do it.
Trying to explain the feelings to the gods, overcame the sirens, surviving trials with a Cyclops and a witch to his wife, trying to see his role as a husband, the following part from the poem should be quoted. Sitting together, Calypso and Odysseus, Calypso is trying to make sure whether Odysseus really wants to get home to his beloved wife. Warning Odysseus about tremendous suffering, Calypso offers him the following,
…if you had any idea of all the pain
You are destined to suffer before getting home,
You would stay here with me, deathless –
Think of it, Odysseus! – no matter how much
You missed your wife and wanted to see her again.2
However, the reply of Odysseus helps understand how truthfully and sincere he loves his wife.
Goddess and mistress, do not be angry with me.
I know very well that Penelope,
For all her virtues, would pale beside you.
She is only human, and you are a goddess,
Eternally young. Still, I want to go back.
My heart aches for the day I return to my home.
If some god hits me as I sale the deep purple,
I will weather it like the sea-beaten veteran I am.
God knows I have suffered and had my share of the sorrows
In war and at sea. I can take more if I have to.3
This touching dialogues between Calypso and Odysseus says much about the problem under consideration. It is hard to imagine a man who can refuse to remain deathless and to live with Goddess in favor of returning home to a simple woman. Most men are looking to the wives who will satisfy their needs.
Deathless and beauty are the wishes which can be realized only by Goddess and such opportunities are not offered to everyone. Is it possible to refuse personal life in favor of divine life with one of the most beautiful and powerful women? Not many men could refuse from such an offer. However, Odysseus’s reply deserves respect.
He managed not only to refuse Calypso in her offer, he also said to her that no mater how beautiful she is his wife is much more important for hi, It is essential to understand the complicatedness of the situation. Odysseus is offered everything a man can dream of, however, he refuses. His wife is more important for him.
Having made a choice once, Odysseus cannot betray his feelings. This dialog shows how much Penelope means for Odysseus and how tender he is in relation to their relationships. Being away at home for at least 10 years, Odysseus refuses to stay with another woman having a hope to return home.
The dialogue between Odysseus and his mother show this man as a caring husband who worries not only about his personal wishes (to be with his wife) but wants to make sure that his wife is happy. Being informed that Penelope was told about his death and as a result, failure to return home, Odysseus wanted to know what his wife is thinking about before going to her. This is the highest level of respect to a loved woman. Odysseus asks his mother,
Does the honor I had
Still remain with them, or has it passed
To some other man, and do they all say
I will never return? And what about my wife?
What has she decided, what does she think?
Is she still with my son, keeping things safe?
Or has someone already married her,
Whoever is now the best of the Achaeans?4
The reply was simple,
“Oh, yes indeed, she remains in your halls,
Her heart enduring the bitter days and nights.”5
All these words show that Odysseus’s hopes were not spent in vain. Hoping for a successful outcome, hoping to return home safe and uninjured he also hoped to embrace his wife. The very idea that his wife was crying days and nights makes Odysseus unhappy, however, this thought also brings him joy as it means that she remembers him. This relation to his wife is important as it shows Odysseus as a tender husband, who also has deep feelings to his wife.
This was his song. And Odysseus wept. Tears
Welled up in his eyes and flowed down his cheeks…
So too Odysseus, pitiful in his grief.
He managed to conceal his tears from everyone
Except Alcinous, who sat in his elbow
And could not help but hear his heavy sighs.6
The desire to hide his tears, not to show his grief says that Odysseus really worried about his wife, their relationships and wanted o return home. Odysseus cannot be accused in showing his feelings for making other pity him. Vice versa, he wanted others to make sure that he is a strong man and none of heart suffering can prevent him from acting bravely.
This scene shows how deeply Odysseus suffers. The song about a suffering of a woman in front of the body of her dead husband reminds him about Penelope. The very idea that his death may bring too much suffering to his wife makes him upset.
The desire to see his lovely wife happy is what he strives for. The longer Odysseus travels, the more tears his wife is going to cry. This thought makes Odysseus feels uncomfortable and upset. Loving husbands do not want to make their wives suffer, but Odysseus can do nothing about this and it makes him suffer as well.
However, Odysseus was not at home for a long period of time and he cannot go home without testing his wife. Such an action seems rather strange as “any other man come home from hard travels would rush to his house to see his children and wife”,7 but Odysseus wants to make sure that his wife still remembers him and wants to see him.
This is unfair as his wife “just sits in the house, weeping away the lonely days and nights”.8 It shows that Penelope never lost faith in the return of her husband, however, it is hard to Odysseus to believe in it.
This distrust may be caused by the difficulties he had to come through. He remembers everything and how brave he was to overcome all the barriers, however, Odysseus is not sure that his wife could sustain all the complications and remain faithful to him.
Having prepared a test to her, he just wants to make sure that she remained faithful to hi. Penelope came through the test with honor. As for me, such action of a husband cannot be called as a positive one as taking a woman for a wife one should trust her in all situations. Moreover, everyone told Odysseus that his wife was waiting for him in spite all the gossip about his death.
Being a good and loving husband who has come through many complicated tests and other difficulties, he failed to come through the last test called trust. Trust in relationships is important. The lack of this feeling cannot characterize Odysseus as an ideal man.
Considering the whole situation from the very beginning up to the end, it becomes obvious that the closer Odysseus becomes to his wife, the more unpleasant feelings come to his mind. Being too far from Penelope, Odysseus just dreams about coming home and making everything to prevent his wife from crying and suffering.
However, when Odysseus is home, doubt comes to his heart and opposite to gong to his wife and kissing her, he imagines a plan how to make sure that she waited for him. It is possible to compare and contrast the behavior of the wife and the husband here.
When Penelope is told that her husband is dead she does not stop waiting for him sitting at home and waiting Odysseus does not believe as well in the words of his mother who tells him that Penelope waited for him.
However, the nature of distrust is different. Penelope’s heart is full of hope, while Odysseus’s is full of distrust. Loving husbands are to trust their wives as a husband and a wife is a couple which has to be together no matter what happens.
Therefore, the proverb wedding are made in heavens exactly fit the situation. Penelope and Odysseus is a couple which deserves to be happy as they suffered too much to achieve this. Looking at Odysseus as at a husband, it is possible to conclude that he was a good husband. Being absent for 20 years, he managed to create the relationships with his wife in such a way that she waited for him.
Not each man deserves to be waited for 20 years and Penelope did it, therefore, she was sure that Odysseus is the man who deserves it. Moreover, being told about his death, Penelope also did not believe the gossip as she knew that her husband could not die. Raveling on the sea and trying to get home, Odysseus was provoked by sirens and Goddess, they promised him everything he wanted and needed, however, being a loving husband he wanted to return home.
Crying after having listened for a song shows Odysseus as a tender and emotional person whose love for his wife brought him home. Odysseus managed to come home and after many difficulties and barriers he managed to embrace his wife who waited for him, ideal and courageous. Odyssey by Homer may be used as the course-book for teaching devotion and love.
Homer, The Essential Odyssey. Translated by Stanley Lombardo. New York: Hackett Publishing, 2007.
1 Homer, The Essential Odyssey, trans. Stanley Lombardo (New York: Hackett Publishing, 2007), 1.
2 Ibid, 35.
4 Ibid, 100.
5 Ibid, 101.
6 Ibid, 60.
7 Ibid, 137.