Poseidon, Penelope and Scylla in “The Odyssey” by Homer
Homer’s The Odyssey is a classical epic story, which has existed for millennia while preserving its relevance. Its plot represents a combination of simplicity and sophistication, as the basis of it is a hero’s journey home. On his way from the Trojan War, Odysseus encounters numerous characters, each of whom has their own background and motivation. Some of the characters are divine in nature, whereas others represent humanity.
The story of each one is unique, and they affect Odysseus, as well. In fact, every significant character introduced by Homer has a purpose. Some of them pose serious challenges, forging the protagonist’s strength and will. Others, such as his wife, Penelope, remind Odysseus about the positive side of life and motivate him to overcome all difficulties. The purpose of this essay is to examine significant characters of The Odyssey based on the examples of Poseidon, Penelope, and Scylla.
In the course of his journey, Odysseus meets numerous other characters, including friendly and hostile ones. The protagonist is returning from the Trojan War, but he ends up delayed by challenges and adventures (Homer). At one point, Odysseus and his crew arrive at a small island, where they find a cave. As it turns out, a cyclops named Polyphemus lives on the island, and the invaders are soon captured by him. Odysseus attempts to kill the cyclops, but he ended up blinding him and escaping the island. Polyphemus was the son of Poseidon, the great god of the sea, who became extremely frustrated (Homer).
Poseidon is portrayed as a strong, divine figure which, however, is capable of experiencing normal feelings, such as love. According to Greek myths, Poseidon rules the Pantheon of Olympic Gods along with his brothers Zeus and Hades. As said by researchers, Poseidon’s role in the story is to show the growth of the main character through serious challenges caused by a divine figure. (Hidden Themes from Homer’s Odyssey). In the end, Homer’s protagonist overcomes these difficulties and emerges even stronger from Poseidon’s storms.
On the other hand, Homer introduces human characters, along with gods. His entire journey has one central motivation, which is his desire to return home and see his family (Homer). Odysseus’s wife is called Penelope, and she is the daughter of a Spartan king. Once they got married, Odysseus and Penelope ruled the small island of Ithaca, and soon they had a son named Telemachus (Penelope). Once Odysseus departed for the Trojan War, Penelope remained on Ithaca, ruling during the absence of her husband. In the meantime, numerous suitors arrive at the island in order to ask Penelope to marry them (Penelope).
The suitors are convinced that Odysseus will never return after such a long absence, but she keeps believing. In the end, the protagonist manages to handle all the divine challenges and return to his human love. Once Odysseus proves his identity after years of absence, the suitors are expelled from the island (Homer). In the end, Penelope’s role in the story was one of a lighthouse, guiding Odysseus through severe hardships caused by gods. The woman’s loyalty and faith were eventually rewarded by the return of her loving husband.
At the same time, while the opposition between gods and humans was always an important topic in Greek myths and literature, there are other powers represented in The Odyssey, as well. At one point of his long journey, Odysseus has to sail through a small strait, on both sides of which there are creatures of extreme danger (Homer). Scylla is one of them, and she is described as an “immortal and irresistible” monster (Scylla and Charybdis).
Her exact history and nature remain unknown, symbolizing the presence of uncontrollable powers (Who Was Scylla in Greek Mythology?) The Odyssey has several important human characters, and even gods, such as Poseidon, are driven by similar, understandable motivations. Nevertheless, Scylla and Charybdis introduce a different perspective, being strong, merciless monsters without feelings or remorse. Odysseus has to face a threat with which he cannot negotiate, making him think of new solutions. In the end, the protagonist manages to pass between Scylla and Charybdis, once again proving his strength and wit. The creatures left a lasting impact on global culture, as the saying involving them has become part of many languages, including English.
In conclusion, The Odyssey is a classical epic story, showing a man’s journey home disrupted by hardships and challenges. In the course of his journey, Odysseus meets several important characters who are inherently different in nature. Gods play a role of paramount importance in the culture of Ancient Greece. In The Odyssey, they are represented by Poseidon, the master of the sea, who seeks vengeance for the blinding of his son Polyphemus.
Poseidon’s role is that of an overwhelming threat, which Odysseus must endure to become stronger. Then, the human aspect is embodied by Penelope, the protagonist’s wife. She symbolizes eternal love, as she remains faithful to her husband after many years of his absence, guiding Odysseus through all the challenges. Finally, Scylla and Charybdis are raw, uncontrollable forces of nature, and primordial monsters. They represent the objective circumstances over which Odysseus has little or no control. Each character has its purpose implied by Homer, which contributes to the overall success of The Odyssey across centuries.
“Hidden Themes from Homer’s Odyssey.” Union College. Web.
“Penelope.” Britannica. Web.
“Scylla and Charybdis.” Britannica. Web.
“Who Was Scylla in Greek Mythology?” Greek Boston. Web.
Homer. (2004). The Odyssey. (T.E. Lawrence, Trans.). Collector’s Library.
Murnaga, Sheila. “Penelope as a Tragic Heroine.” Yearbook of Ancient Greek Epic Online, vol. 2, no. 1, 2018, pp. 165-189.