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Moral Values in the Epic Poem, "The Odyssey"


In Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey," the main character Odysseus is rescued by the Greek gods from his imprisonment after the fall of Troy and embarks on a treacherous journey to return to his homeland. During the journey, he faces many obstacles that challenge his faith and loyalty. "The Odyssey" explores several virtues and moral values that eventually lead to Odysseus's successful return.

Loyalty

A central virtuous theme in "The Odyssey" is loyalty. Odysseus's devotion to his family, his country and his god is unwavering, according to Victoria Allen's "A Teacher's Guide to the Signet Classic Edition of Homer's The Odyssey." Along his journey, Odysseus has the opportunity to be unfaithful to his wife, renounce his country and ignore his beliefs. Even though he sometimes falters and some of his decisions have negative consequences, his allegiance, love for his wife and desire to return home never wanes.

Self-Control

Odysseus has strong moral values when it comes to self-control and sexual temptation. Even though the beautiful Sirens attempt to draw him off course, he warns his men of their seductive ways, attaches himself to his ship so he won't stray and plugs his crew's ears with wax. He also shows self-control when he holds back and doesn't kill Polyphemus, the cyclops. He waits for the right opportunity so he can gouge his eye out and escape. Even though some of his men -- those with poor riding skills -- are killed by Polyphemus, his self-control keeps his whole crew from being slaughtered.

Perseverence

"The Odyssey" is a story of perseverance. Despite the many obstacles and challenges he faces, Odysseus never gives up. Even when Odysseus doesn't know how to escape the cyclops, he makes a noble attempt to survive by riding under the bellies of sheep, according to "Scope" magazine. Odysseus's perseverance isn't based on physical strength alone. He uses his intelligence to outwit those who try to ensnare him. From the very beginning of the poem, Odysseus shows his determination by escaping the grips of Calypso.

Compassion

Even though Odysseus is forced to deal with opposing forces using violence and aggression, he never loses his soft side. He proves his virtue when he allows compassion to rule his heart. For example, when Demodocus plays the harp and sings of the Trojan War, Odysseus cries. Odysseus remembers his fellow comrades who died in war and mourns their loss. His imprisonment, years away from home and oppressive confrontations aren't able to destroy his empathetic and compassionate tendencies.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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