The Analysis Of Homer’s “Oddysey”

July 18, 2021 by Essay Writer


The concept of the journey has beguiled respondents since the beginning of time. Stories about the movement of people and how these travels affected them resonant because they are universal, where the physical experiences make way for personal growth, or even operate metaphorically. When we turn to the distant past of western literature, the stories that have survived are Homer’s great works of poetry, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Without these texts, Western literature would be very different and they have laid the foundation for many other great stories. The literary works of Homer and Charles Frazier, respectively “the Odyssey” and “Cold Mountain”, are stories of a journey. But they are much more than that. Both focus on a journey, but it is the inner working of the main characters that interests us. Both follow a strikingly identical storyline, in which themes, concerns as well as structural elements are at times indistinguishable. Both works are based on the return of a hero to his home, specifically, to his love interest.

In Homer’s “Odyssey” the themes, perseverance, love and loyalty are expressed through the relationship between Odysseus and Penelope, likewise, in Frazier’s “Cold Mountain”, the aforementioned themes are symbolized through Inman’s interaction with Ada. These comparisons are no accident. Frazier once admitted he actually borrowed stylistic elements from Homer’s “Odyssey” in an interview he had with the Boston Globe, as he explicitly said “When I heard the story [from my Grandfather,] one of the first things I thought of was a structure like The Odyssey. I didn’t want to write a book about the generals and the battles. I thought of it in terms of The Iliad and The Odyssey: the book about fighting the war, and the book about the warrior coming home.”Undoubtedly, Frazier borrows from this storyline for one purpose: establish that Inman is a protagonist, who is an ordinary character made to reflect on the concerns of the post-modern society. Just as obviously, this change in context has created the need to develop Inman into a hero for the modern age, which means that he will subvert many of the heroic traits that were considered normal for an Ancient Greek.

“Cold Mountain” is an American Odyssey, and to that end this essay attempts to understand how Frazier uses and changes the source material. For even while the structures of the two texts are similar, there are more differences than might be imagined. Inman might be a hero, but he is a hero for the post-modern world, despite the novel being set 150 years before the time of writing. Moreover, our modern-day Penelope, Frazier’s Ada, must be altered for her to capture the respect of the reader and to address issues of gender representation that are demanded by the modern reader. While Ada might be caught at a disadvantage, she seems to be less passive than her antecedent. Effectively, in order to answer the proposed question, these changes must be addressed. This essay sets out to determine how Frazier has used and subverted Homer’s poem. Firstly, “the Odyssey” will be summarised in terms of its concerns, structure and context.

The Greek world was very different from that of the American Civil War, or more significantly, from the late 20th century. In order to judge the significance of the changes, the starting point needs to be isolated. In the next section, we will go into greater depth regarding Odysseus as a Greek hero and what traits made him so attractive to the reader. The same will be undertaken for Penelope. Only once these characters are thoroughly deciphered can a comprehensive study of the changes in Frazier’s novel be attempted. In the fourth section of the essay, Odysseus and Inman will be compared with a close reading of the specifics of the text, and this process will then be repeated through a comparison of Ada and Penelope. By looking closely at the behaviour, choices and actions of the characters of the novel, we may be able to see the points of inspiration from the original poem. Both the novel and the poem are works of fascinating depth, and both focus on a very specific world and world view.


”Homer’s “Odyssey” is a poetic work that focuses on the journey of an epic hero whose primary aim is to return to his homeland through overcoming impediments. With respect to context, the work of Homer is set in the Bronze age of Greece, though it is believed that the poem was not written by one person and was actually changed and added to over many hundreds of years. The battle being described may have occurred 700 years before the believed date of composition. Therefore, it is difficult to understand just which world is being represented here: that of the battle, or of the writing, or of the Classical Age, which was so influenced by both poems. It is hard to overestimate the importance of Homer’s works. In Ancient Greece and Rome, a proper education consisted of memorising these epic poems. A properly educated person could recite them, but they were mostly used as a way to make a witty comment by delivering one or two lines at a good moment in a discussion. The reasons for this popularity are down to the quality of the poetry and the way the situations and characters reflect contemporary concerns. This was an age when the people of Greece assumed that gods were present among civilizations. Hence, the inclusion of timeless Greek gods, specifically, Athene, Hades, Helios, Hermes, Poseidon and Zeus, can be mainly linked with the belief of Homer’s audience; the audience of Homer, actually argued that gods present on earth were orchestrating natural events such as rain, earthquakes and growth of plants, in other words, mythology comprised a formidable portion of the daily lives of the ancient Greeks. The aforementioned gods were all assigned with certain strengths and qualities; the daughter of Zeus, Athene, for instance, was known as the goddess of war, wisdom and agriculture, whereas Hermes served as a messenger and represented commerce as well as theft.


Another significant aspect regarding Homer’s “ Odyssey” is characterization. In comparison to the protagonist of Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” Inman, Odysseus can be regarded as an epic hero as every other Homeric hero rather than an a character who bears insignificant traits and merely reflects society. Despite severe situations, such as facing the sirens and battling the infamous Cyclops, Odysseus manages to prevail with minimal harm and continues his journey home. Such situations are inseparable from epic heroes, especially in the case of Odysseus, as he is known to bear the title of King of Ithaca. Apart from braving his adversaries with exceptional strength, Odysseus also defeats his opponents through reason and intelligence; the depiction of Odysseus with such traits obviously sets him apart from the traditional Homeric heroes. In Homer’s “Odyssey,” Odysseus’ encounter with Poseidon’s son, the Cyclops, consolidates the idea that Odysseus is in fact a cunning persona. In particular, Odysseus introduces himself to Polyphemus with a bogus name “Noman,” which leads Polyphemus to tell the Cyclops “No man” harmed him; through executing such a strategy, it is evident that Odysseus defeats the giant by reason as well as deception, hence it connotes that Homer intends to develop a persona who is formidable in comparison to the epic heroes of his former literary works.

Throughout the epic poem, perseverance is another element that comprises a great portion of the characteristics of Odysseus; his journey is infested with obstacles, and Odysseus’ ability to overcome each of the impediments can be merely linked with the aforementioned aspect of his personality; clearly, as Odysseus becomes a slave for goddesses, a captive of the Cyclops, and introduces himself to King Alcinous as nothing but an outsider, like any other epic hero, the modest face of his personality is fleshed out. Nevertheless, Homer strives to accentuate Odysseus’ resoluteness specifically through his plot to reunite with Penelope and Telemachus; even though Odysseus arrives home after years, he disguises himself as a stranger and contains his immense anger only to conduct his plan of vengeance: decimating each suitor to cease the pressure exerted on Penelope. This segment from the storyline draws a direct connection with Homer’s central intention to beguile a broad audience and appeal to their interest of witnessing an epic hero whose abilities are far beyond phenomenal.

Homer further develops the aspect of femininity, in other words, empowerment of women through giving heroic traits to Odysseus’ wife Penelope; from a conventional perspective, epic heroes are required to be masculine. Conversely, Homer subverts this prejudiced custom by constructing a personality similar to that of Odysseus; perseverance for instance, is not only a trait that bears significance to Odysseus’ characteristics, but also an aspect present in Penelope’s nature. Penelope resists the formidable pressure exerted by suitors, not knowing whether her husband is alive or deceased on his brutal journey, while Odysseus is well aware of Penelope’s condition. The heroine’s perseverance in fact creates a further parallel with Odysseus’ personality. Her act of patience indicates that loyalty has a profound meaning in her personality, as Penelope maintains resistant for twenty years and not once does she lose hope. Simultaneously, the aforementioned aspect of Penelope consolidates the idea of extraordinary mutual faith along with epic love.

Penelope’s heroic side becomes fairly apparent as she cunningly deceives the voracious suitors surrounding her property. As her son Telemachus is incapable of assisting her to find a solution to the developing tension, Penelope displays a conventional trait of an epic hero by formulating an original plan (having the suitors compete in an archery contest by utilizing Odysseus’ bow) to lay the foundation of the grand scheme aimed at the suitors Even though the threat Penelope faces, is not as formidable as those confronted by Odysseus, it gives her the same status as Odysseus with respect to heroism, since she holds off a myriad of insatiable suitors on her own; it is even underlined by the time the suitor, Antinoos admits the fact that Penelope’s plans “never were before,” simultaneously admiring her intelligence. Overall, Homer overlooks Penelope’s heroic acts, primarily because of Odysseus’ more conspicuous bravery against gods, monsters and supernatural creatures; however, acts of Penelope are indeed key components of the storyline. The reason is that through her exceptional intelligence, she masterminds the plot that deceived hordes of suitors; by not giving up, remaining resilient and waiting for two decades, Penelope reflects on the position of women in society, declaring them as bold, confident and tenacious. Hence, it is almost impossible not to assess Penelope from a Homeric hero perspective.


By the same token, Odysseus is characterized with traits that connote evil; unlike Inman, Odysseus is in favor of murdering the innocent and he takes pride in his misdeeds. His actions, primarily, the massacre of the young suitors reflects his lack of mercy and cruelty; the massacre also causes families in ancient Greece to grieve the losses of their sons, which further establishes a link between Odysseus and his ruthless nature. At the same time, Odysseus is described as a liar through his interaction with the suitors, before he carries out the massacre; as he disguises himself as an outsider and tricks the suitors into participating in a competition, Homer intends to give his audience a sense of deception so as to further consolidate the insidious atmosphere formed by Odysseus’ evil characteristic traits. Inman on the other hand, clearly contradicts Odysseus with respect to characteristics as he deserts the Confederate army in the first place as to avoid being part of a fierce conflict that has been caused by polarization. Odysseus is honorable not so much evilKillerHe stands up to peopleHe is crafty, cunningVoluntary sex slavePerseverance, resilientHumble?


Taking into account that both female characters, Penelope and Ada display acts of intelligence, patience as well as loyalty, it can be deduced that the literary texts indeed concentrate on empowering women and giving them qualities equal to those of epic heroes. Even though these heroines are given such traits, it cannot be ignored that both in “Cold Mountain” and “The Odyssey,” their acts are often obscured by those of epic heroes, Odysseus and Inman.

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