Starting the Odyssey was quite a daunting task. I’ve never adventured into Greek literature of any kind, and my knowledge of Greek gods is limited at best. Yet as I read Homer’s great tale, the wide range of characters slowly began to grow on me, some which intrigued me, others which I disliked, and a select few which I liked. Ultimately it’s the characters which bring a story alive, and Homer’s tale is filled with a diverse cast of humans, gods, and other mythical creatures.
Right from the start of the book, a certain line stuck with me. It was Zeus, showing distate in the way mortals blamed and almost relied on the Gods, it starts on page 78, “Ah how shameless-the way these mortals blame the gods. From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes, but they themselves, with their own reckless ways, compound their pains beyond their proper share”. This quote has to be my favorite of The Odyssey. It shows that while the gods are… gods, they still have very human qualities. Zeus is almost annoyed at how the humans blame him, and he looks upon them as a squabbling group of children. From this quote, I began to understand that gods weren’t just benevolent entities filled with joy and kindness, each and every god had a deeper and more intricate personality, with their own principles and tempers. And so it isn’t just Telemachus, Odysseus, and other humans who are key characters throughout the story, the gods are part of the cast which makes this book so layered.
It’s from here that I slowly began to dislike a lot of the gods. With the exception of Athena, Hermes, and a few others, most gods are pretty selfish beings. Poseidon is only disturbed when he has to take vengeance for his murderous Cyclops son, and Zeus, while he shows some interest in protecting Odysseus and Telemachus, I always felt like he could’ve done more. And that’s not even starting to talk about Calypso, Circes, and some of the other nasty gods who trifled with Odysseus’s journey back home. It ultimately seemed like most of the gods were a pretty selfish bunch, not too worried about justice, or about interfering with human problems.
While I complain about the gods, Athena does really shine bright throughout the book. Like a straight-A student, she doesn’t seem to make a wrong move as she is always there to help out Telemachus, and later on Odyssues. Furthermore, one of my favorite things about the book was the fact that Odysseus built his bed from a tree. It showed how at the very foundation of everything in his life, is the love he shares with his wife. After all the toils and hardships he had to endure, at the end of the day he could return home, and crawl back into his bed, with his adoring wife. It’s almost as if it shows what he’s been surviving and fighting for, because at the center of it all, is the love of his life, Penelope, and that will never change.