Odyssey-Book 9 Essay Example
Book 9 of Odyssey begins with Odysseus telling the Phaeacians about his wanderings on his way home from the Trojan War. Most of the book is in flashback. When Odysseus begins his tale to Alcinous, he does not launch straight in to the story, rather he introduces himself rather elaborately as the son of a great king and as someone who fame for his cunning has reached the heavens. Homer could have used this to tell the readers about Odysseus’s pride in his name or could have been Homer keeping in tradition with the literary tradition of that time. Odysseus after his introduction goes on to narrate his adventures on the way. These adventures bring out the myriad characteristics of Odysseus. Homer uses these incidents to also talk about morals and the wages of sin. Odysseus’s experience with the Cicones is an example of the effect that greed has on men. Even though Odysseus orders his men to get away after plundering the city of the Cicones, they stay to inflict more damage and loot more. This unrestrained greed on their part leads to many deaths. Homer uses this passage as a sort of tale about moderation and talks about excessive greed and how excessive plundering is dishonorable even among fighting men.
Escaping with losses from the city of Cicones, Odysseus and his men reach the land of the lotus eaters. Through this episode Homer brings out the link between memory and desire. The men are induced to eat the lotus and soon forget what they have come for. Losing the memory of something one wants is equivalent to losing the impetus for action. The incident with Cyclops shows the darker side of Oedipus. It brings out his cunningness that he is famous for, his greed as well as his pride to the fullest. Although Odysseus is the protagonist, he is similar to other Greek heroes in the fact that he is not perfect. He is not infallible and his thoughtless decisions lead to the death of several of his men.
The Cyclops live outside of civilization and the rules and customs that govern men do not apply to them. In spite of it Odysseus expects Polyphemus to invite them kindly with a feast. When instead Polyphemus feasts on his men, Odysseus does not react immediately but uses his cunning to get the better of him. Odysseus tells Polyphemus his name is nobody and thus tricks him into telling his men that he was being attacked by nobody. When they finally escape Polyphemus, Odysseus is taken over by pride and tells Polyphemus who he really is. This pride leads to more dangers and death for his men as Poseidon avenges the injury meted out to his son. Here Odysseus is shown as being faulty, being selfish, cunning, proud and reckless. But at the end of it all Odysseus regrets what he had done, thus showing that he is not completely bad but someone who can realize his mistakes. Other than Odysseus we also earn more about Polyphemus. Although he comes across as a slow witted brute, he also is gentle with his sheep. Homer shows a gentler side of Polyphemus in this book when he talks to the ram and calls it, ‘my poor ram’.
Although Odysseus is a great leader he is not always a good one as some of the incidents in book 9 show. In order to satisfy his thirst for adventure (at the beginning of the book he mentions his eagerness to get to Ithaca, telling Alcinous how he did not give in to Calypso and Circe because he wanted to get back home, yet he still manages to do a lot more on his way) and spread his fame he leads to the death of many of his men. The restraint and good decision making he shows in some places is balanced by the stupid decision he makes.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. London: Penguin Books. 2002. Print.