Reading The Odyssey has allowed me to make some conclusions about mankind. 1) There are marked differences between the humans of yesterday and us. 2) Humans have behaved like humans for a very long time. For example, we see Telemachus turning down Menelaus' offer of gifts as he was leaving Sparta. I'll admit that I was a little surprised by this, because it seems that etiquette had already been established so long ago. In my mind were pictures of primitive humans who'd barely upgraded from cave living. Hence, this is one way Homer's poem has benefited this ignorant 21st century girl.
The one big difference between men of history and l'homme modern is their openness in exhibiting their innermost feelings. In the story, we see men of all ages and ranks weeping out of sadness as well as happiness. They embrace their comrades and console each other or share their triumphs without restraint. Even Odysseus, the man of twists and turns, the man who'd won the battle of Troy, had cried so many times that I couldn't keep track. It definitely makes me wonder what happened through evolution that made men nowadays so averse to the shedding of tears when it was perfectly manly to have done so in Homer's era.
We also get to see how women were treated long ago. Women basically played the role of caretakers in the house. We see nurses and maids running households and bathing their masters, working at their looms and pouring wine. However, we do see the old nurse, Eurycleia giving both Odysseus and his son sound advice when they made snap judgments of others and that showed that women did command respect from men in those times. Another really eye-opening fact about the women of Homer's time was their openness regarding their sexual desires. Both Calypso and Circe had carnal relations with Odysseus, a man described as the most handsome in all of Achaea, with Calypso imprisoning the man for years with the sole purpose of obtaining pleasure from him. It is definitely a reversal of today's culture where the men are the ones who openly ogle at and prey on women. Also, women were not spared death as punishments when they committed treason against the king, which I think was very fair.
Odysseus, the man central to the story, was mostly depicted as an almost godlike figure, both physically and thought-wise. His cunning was to be feared and he did not excuse both his wife and son from his tests of loyalty when he returned home. He had been captured as a sex slave but insisted that his heart remained with Penelope in Ithaca, which is really tough to believe these days, but since he sat on the cliffs and cried all day, I conceded and allowed myself to think that men are not all happy with sex alone (disclaimer: opinions were formed from interactions with male friends). Odysseus was also a very witty man who was not afraid to show it off to anyone, even if it put him in danger. This will undoubtedly be reminiscent of Jeremy from your elementary school who'd blabber on and on about his amazing math and language skills.
The other thing I'd like to note here is Odysseus (or Homer's) fondness for storytelling. Reading the poem sometimes felt like storyception, where Odysseus makes up stories in order to fool his people or his wife. The extent he goes to create an alter ego is utterly bizarre. It's hard to believe that one could tell such convincing lies, given split seconds to think them up. However, this also reinforces the fact that people have already developed a love of telling creative lies and of listening to them.
The Odyssey is a wondrous tale of a hero's homecoming, though the ending was slightly abrupt and anti-climatic. It is a comprehensive study of human nature that is ultimately a precursor to the modern novel and film, where we get invested in characters because of the fact that they are human or humanised beings we can relate to.
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