Family plays a great role in the lives of modern people. Consequently, it played enormous roles in the ancient times. Family was always the main part of human's life. It is a bulwark of everything. Homer states the opinion that when a person has family, he has everything. The problem of family was always the field of interest of many writers of all ages and times. Thesis In the Odyssey, the role of family is important as it tells readers much about roles of men and women, husbands and wives, children and parents in the ancient societies they represent.
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As for Homer, he was describing the Trojan war, the heroes and the problems of returning back home. We can see that Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, who is going to the Trojan war in Iliad. We know that Odysseus doesn't want to go to war, he wants to stay home. He has the young and beautiful wife Penelope, who gave the birth to a child of Odysseus:. "Such were the pitiful tears Odysseus shed from under his brows, but they went unnoticed by all the others" (Homer). They named this child Telemachus. Odysseus even decided to pretend that he is mad, and when his comrades came to him, he was sowing the salt and digging up the soil. But his friends used cunning for exposing his lie, they put Telemachus under the plow, and Odysseus stopped digging up. The war lasted for 10 years, and all these 10 years Odysseus wanted to come back home. He has not seen his mother, wife and child. So the Odyssey starts from the point when Odysseus wanders around the world and can not get back home, because the God of the oceans and seas Poseidon revenges Odysseus for insulting his son, Cyclops Polyphemus.
In 10 years of adventures, Odysseus is back, but many fiancés want to receive his throne. Before the war, Odysseus told his wife, that she needs to find the new husband, if he is not back in 10 years, but Penelope was so devoted to her beloved husband, that she couldn't get married once more. But men came to ask in marriage, but she pulled the time. She was waiting for him; there was no other man in her life. Odysseus, in his turn, had other women, but still thinking about Penelope. So he got rid of all the men, who wanted to become the king of Ithaca instead of Odysseus. During all the wanders of Odysseus, his son Telemachus went to travel to find his father, but he returned home without father. Odysseus came home by himself. So we can see that the role of family is really relevant, especially for Odysseus. Husbands, of course, were the chief in the family, and wife was always the mother, and the keeper of the home locus:
"(Penelope:) [...] and now again a beloved son is gone ... on a hollow ship, an innocent all unversed in fighting and speaking, and it is for him I grieve even more than for that other one, and tremble for him and fear, lest something should happen to him either in the country where he has gone, or on the wide sea, for he has many who hate him and are contriving against him and striving to kill him before he comes back into his own country" (Homer)
Family mortality is the dominant theme in the Odyssey. It is the burning question for the heroes of Homer's epic, and for Odysseus in particular.
The human condition of mortality, with all its ordeals, defines heroic life itself in the Odyssey. Homer recollects that the certainty that one day we will die makes us human, distinct from animals who are unaware of their future death and from immortal gods. To the warrior-hero all the ordeals of the human condition culminate in the ultimate ordeal of violent death in battle, detailed in all its ghastly varieties by the poet of the Odyssey. The prestige accorded by ancient Greek civilization to the figure of Odysseus, and the strong emotional attachment that goes with it, is worthy of our attention especially because modern readers, both men and women, young and old, often find themselves relatively unresponsive to this sullen and darkly brooding hero.
In the Odyssey, men are convinced that it is up to them to provide for their wives and children and to answer for the future and security of their families. This code is most obvious in the sense of failure most men feel if they cannot give their families the security or the material standards they would like. This self-undertaken commitment to the breadwinning role often goes hand in hand with a conviction that one has thereby done one's bit. In contrast to loving and devoted Penelope, Odysseus is described as a traditional Greek hero and the champion hero of the Trojans who possesses enormous power and strength. In many situations, Odysseus proves that he is a real hero, brave and courageous, spirited and devoted to his army. Odysseus is the only commander who fights in his country. As a warrior, Odysseus is most succinctly identified as the sacrifice as well as victim. The Greek mythology also depicts Odysseus as alienated from his peers. In fact the hero, whose death not only enacts battle sacrifice but reenacts festal sacrifice, continues the pre-death role of sacrifice that is in some cases directly connected with war and battles. As the struggling hero, Odysseus is isolated, sacrificed, and ostracized in narrative is beckoned as a handsome, elegant, and desirable man.
"Weary of light, Ulysses here explores
A prosperous voyage to his native shores;
But know--by me unerring Fates disclose
New trains of dangers, and new scenes of woes.
I see, I see, thy bark by Neptune toss'd" (Homer)
Homer portrays that family keeps traditions and values of nuclear family so it just changes its structure and priorities. The father's influence in the family comes "from outside," from the heroic world and the rest of society. For many decades, then, the man was the crucial link between heroic deeds and family. The work determined both the family's level of living and the division of labor between the spouses; consequently, his position holds center stage for family policy, which focuses primarily on equality among children from families with different incomes levels and on equality between the sexes.
Devotion of women makes things easier for the husband or for the family: men of insecure status on the heroic field are relieved of responsibility and anxiety; husbands were able to travel to far lands.
In sum, in the Odyssey the family plays the decisive role, because family members were trying to trick the fate and they started this vicious circle. They did everything for the prophecy not to become true. They left their son to die for the future prosperity of the country. They put the family lower than the duties of the family. The epic portrays ancient traditions when men could do whatever they want, women were limited in their rights, but as mythology says that women could have possibilities to have lovers and they had even couple of the days in a year to have fun without informing husband about it. The theme of family is a complex one which clearly distinguishes the role of women and men in ancient society. On the one hand, men conform that they are real heroes who fight for native land; on the other hand, women are devoted mother and wives. Given the right circumstances, however, such representations can also serve to ignite passions and justify conflict and deaths. Manhood connotes cruelty and violence which in turn reflects on the hero.
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