“Love” The Odyssey of Homer
15 February Similes in The Odyssey The Odyssey is one of the epic poems attributed to Homer. It depicts the struggles of Odysseus after the Trojan War. Suitors are already swarming his wife, Penelope, while Penelopes son, Telemachos, looks for his father, under the direction of the goddess Athene. Kalypso holds Odysseus captive in her island as her lover. In Mount Olympos, where the gods reside, the goddess Athene asks her father, Zeus, to take pity on Odysseus and to compel Kalpyso to liberate him. Zeus fulfills Athene’s request. Unfortunately, Poseidon creates a horrible storm that destroys Odysseus’ wooden raft, so he washes to the land of the Phaiakians. This essay interprets the figures of speech in The Odyssey (Book 5) during the time that Odysseus floats hopelessly in the ocean.
Personification is used in Book 5 of The Odyssey. Homer says: “when Dawn with the lovely hair had brought the third morning,” Dawn has been turned into a person with beautiful hair. By hair, it refers also to “gold,” which is the color of the sun. This means that it is a fine day, when Odysseus sees land for the first time. Another interpretation is that Dawn is “hope.” It is the breaking of the day, where light shines on earth. For Odysseus who has been floating in the seas for some time, to see land is to spark hope in his heart. In addition, Dawn can also refer to Athene. This goddess has been helping Odysseus, since he is her favorite. If not without her divine intercession for her father and other forms of assistance, Odysseus would have been kept prisoner in Kalypso’s island forever. Athene is the Dawn in Odysseus’ life, because she constantly shines blessings for him, in order to escape his would-have-been-dreadful life.
When Odysseus sees land, he views life more positively. The word “welcome” describes his feeling for this land that will help him survive. When he sees this land, the simile is “And as welcome as the show of life again in a father is to his children” (Homer). Odysseus sees the land as a part of his life, his existence. The land is his father; a father who welcomes his long lost child, for indeed, Odysseus has been literally lost for a long time. Odysseus longs for his father, this land that would help him reach his family once more. The words “wasting long away, and the hateful death spirit has brushed him,” explain his sickness. He has been terribly sick in the seas, after swimming when his raft has been destroyed. After two days of swimming and floating, it is inevitable for his physical body to deteriorate, until “the hateful death spirit has brushed him.” It is hateful, because Odysseus wants to survive. The “death spirit” refers to the coming of his death. It only brushes him, which means that Odysseus is so close to dying from exhaustion and emotional depression.
Hope comes once more in the form of land: “so welcome appeared land and forest now to Odysseus,/and he swam, pressing on, so as to set foot on the mainland” (Homer). Again, land welcomes him. Land is his “salvation” (Bynum). Odysseus feels that he has found his life once more. On dry land, he can recover and pursue his goals of going home and being reunited with his family. He “presses on” or endures to swim, for in this land, his journey will continue. He needs to recover his strength and this land will give him his strength back.
Several figures of speech are identified, including similes and personification. These figures of speech serve to describe events and emotions in a metaphorical manner. They assert the poetic beauty of a man’s struggles to be with his loved ones, no matter what it takes.
Bynum, D.E. Myth and Ritual: Two Faces of Tradition. Web. 13 Feb. 2012.
Homer. The Odyssey.