The Odyssey Theme of Fate and Free Will
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The characters in the Odyssey are definitely not free to be you and me. Their destinies are just that: destiny, and there's not much room to change what's going to happen. Still, there is a way to change how they get there. Fate and free will aren't mutually exclusive, and even the gods have a lot of leeway in how they bring about what's fated. (Not to mention that they're subject to all the same fickleness of human emotion that we are). Add it all up, and you get a pretty flexible notion of just what "fate" means.
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Questions About Fate and Free Will
- It's clear that Odysseus is responsible for his own actions, like telling Polyphemos his name. It's also clear that certain events are fated to happen from the start. How are both of these possible in the Odyssey?
- What is the difference between "fate" and "luck" in the Odyssey? When do the characters ascribe events to the former, and when to the latter, and why? (And is "fate" always bad? Does it every seem to do good for anyone?)
- At what point does divine intervention strip the characters of their ability to act and think for themselves? Can we draw much of a line between, say, the ideas that Athene puts in Odysseus' head and the ideas that he devises on his own?
Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
In The Odyssey, fate never seems to bring about anything good.
In The Odyssey, free will is simply an illusion. Even the choices that men make are guided by events outside their control.
Fate In The Odyssey Essay
Fate in The Odyssey In Homer?s The Odyssey, fate plays an important part in the story development. People who believe in fate or destiny think that their lives are spun out in front of them before they are born, and there is nothing they can do to change that. Some characters, like Polyphemos, find out their fate beforehand but still end up fulfilling prophesies they tried to avoid, but most characters acted out their fate without realizing it, like Odysseus. He blinded the Cyclops without knowing that he was destined to do so, but Polyphemos knew that he was going to be blinded by him. ?Once there was a prophet here?who said that all these things in the future would come to pass, /That I would be deprived of my sight at Odysseus? hands.? (127) Odysseus and others are never told what would happen to them in their lives, but they acted it out, and no matter how hard they tried, they couldn?t get out of their destiny.
After Odysseus blinded the Cyclops Polyphemos, Odysseus told him to tell anyone who inquires about his eye that it was Odysseus of Ithaca who blinded him. Polyphemos, son of Poseidon, remembers that it was prophesized that a man would blind him by the name of Odysseus. He then prayed to his father: Hear me, earth girdling Poseidon of the dark blue locks? Grant that the city slacker Odysseus not go homeward, The son of Laertes whose home is in Ithaca.
But if it is his fate to see his dear ones and arrive At his well established home and his fatherland, May he come home late and ill, having lost all his companions?(127-128) It was Polyphemos? fate to be blinded by Odysseus, and he knew it, and it was Odysseus? fate to blind Polyphemos, but was not aware of it. Because Polyphemos was blinded by Odysseus, Odysseus went on a ten-year journey trying to make his way home, most of the way without his companions. Even though it was Odysseus? fate to return home late and without his companions, he worked very hard over the years to return home, even though he?s not sure if he is destined to make it home or not.
Odysseus wanted to return so much that, in fact, he was willing to go to Hades, the Underworld, to make it back as soon as he can. No one that wasn?t the son of a god had ever gone to Hades and returned. Odysseus still didn?t know if he is destined to return home or not, but instead of giving up and assuming that he wouldn?t return home, worked to get home. He traveled to Hades to talk to Tiresias, a blind...
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