Identity Formation in the Odyssey

Category: History
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Identity is what makes us who we are. The Odyssey by Homer is a story about a man named Odysseus who goes to war for 10 years, then decides to make trouble for himself, which leads him to face many obstacles to find his way back home. Odysseus’s identity is shaped by the people he meets, the things he does, and by the gods.

One way Odysseus’s identity is shaped is by the people he meets. One of the people Odysseus meets on his trip to the underworld is Tiresias. He is a blind prophet who tells him that his journey back home will be difficult because he has angered Poseidon for blinding his son Polyphemus. Tiresias also tells Odysseus that when he arrives at the sun god island he must watch his men and ensure they don’t eat the cattle or else his ship and all his men will get lost. Odysseus wasn’t able to watch his men at the sun god’s island, and they ate the cattle.

Helios was angry, he said he would take the sun and go shine in Hades, but Zeus said he will punish Odysseus and his men for what they did. He struck their ship with lightning, and some of Odysseus’s men died. Odysseus was spared because he didn’t eat the cattle. This event shaped Odysseus’s identity because he learns to listen to the gods and not anger them. Another person Odysseus meets on his Journey is King Alcinous. Odysseus washes up on King Alcinous’s island. The King wanted Odysseus’s name but Odysseus didn’t want to tell him because his name only brought pain, but the King was smart, he knew it was Odysseus and was honored that he was at his kingdom, so he honored him with a feast and told him that he will give him a ship to help him get back home. Odysseus‘s identity is shaped when he visits the King because he is more cautious of what he does and says. These are some example of how the people Odysseus meet shape his identity.

Another way Odysseus’s identity is shaped is by the things he does. An example of this is when Odysseus won the Trojan war and didn’t thank the gods for any of their help. He was being hubris. He didn’t have any pride for what the gods did to help him. That’s when Poseidon cursed the ocean, so that Odysseus could not return home to Ithaca. This shaped Odysseus’s identity because it taught him to be thankful of the gods. A second way Odysseus’s identity is shaped is when he blinds Polyphemus and tells him that Odysseus was the one who blinded him. He never should have told the Cyclops his name because he is the son of Poseidon. Odysseus wanted to feel accomplished, he wanted everyone to know the he was capable of blinding a Cyclops. This shaped Odysseus’s identity because it taught him to have less pride. These are some examples of the things Odysseus does to shape his identity.

A third way Odysseus’s identity is shaped is by the gods. One god who helps Odysseus was Athena. Athena was helpful to Odysseus. She gave him the olive tree to use, and defeat the Cyclops. This was useful to Odysseus because without that olive tree they would have never escaped the Cyclops cave. Athena also helped Odysseus by disguising him as an old beggar so that he can go home to Ithaca and see what the other Men have done in his home. Without this disguise, Odysseus would have never gotten his kingdom back but he was patient and efficient, so he could accomplish his goal.

This shaped Odysseus’s identity because he learned to love his wife and son. A second god which helped Odysseus was Hermes. Hermes helped Odysseus by stopping the curse that Circe was going to give to him by letting him eat molly. Even though the molly was a poison plant, it still helped Odysseus. This shaped Odysseus’s identity because it taught him to trust the gods even when it seems suspicious. Another thing Hermes did to help Odysseus was telling Calypso to free Odysseus otherwise he islands will sink to the ocean floor. This shaped Odysseus’s identity because it taught him to repeat the gods because they are capable of many things. These are some examples of how Odysseus’ identity is shaped by the gods.

Lastly, there many things that shape our identity. The things we do, say, and see can all shape who we are as a person. Without identity, everyone would be the same.

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Identity Formation in the Odyssey. (2020, Aug 13). Retrieved from

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