Kleos In The Odyssey

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In the Odyssey, Odysseus struggles to turn away from material goods and the lure of fame,which often entraps him, but he fights through and emerges with love as his savior. The desperation installed in Odysseus by separation increases his appreciation of love and society, and it reveals to him the truth about kleos - it is a poison, slowly absorbing into the body without notice, and there is only one cure - risking it all to be with those he loves. As Odysseus progresses through his journey in the Odyssey, his priorities constantly change from kleos to obtaining human contact, but love triumphs and he learns that with love comes all he desires. Kleos is often all the people think about and influences the opinions and actions of both the…show more content…
Eventually, Odysseus cannot bare to be separated from his loved ones any longer, and he crumbles and loses the will to live. While Calypso detains Odysseus on her island, Athena pleads for Zeus to release him, describing him “longing to see even the smoke curling up from his land, simply want[ing] to die” (1.64-65). Even though Odysseus is in the presence of a goddess, depression seizes him, and he longs for his wife. He would rather die than have to endure anymore of this kleos, for his greatest desire - to return home; is prevented by Calypso. She is a living representation of kleos’ deceitfulness: offering what is desired but at a price too steep to pay. Overwhelmed by seeing a relative for the first time in years, Odysseus behaves irrationally and subjects himself to torture. When Odysseus sees his mother in the underworld, “Three times [he] rushed forward to hug her, and three times she drifted out of [his] arms like a shadow or a dream” (11.206-208). A longing for human contact overtakes Odysseus, causing him to act irrationally. Each time he “rushed” to hug his mother, a madness inside of him grows, crumbling down his defenses and logic. Society has become nothing more than a dream to Odysseus; a fantasy that dances before him that he can never…show more content…
Odysseus’ encounter with heroes of the underworld causes him to change him values. When Odysseus remarks on Achilles’ greatness in death, Achilles is bitter and says, “I’d rather be a hired hand back up on earth slaving away for some poor dirt farmer, than lord it over all these withered dead” (11.11-513). Achilles has obtained a god-like status, for he is lord of the dead, but he is not pleased with his situation because the dead are “withered” and are not able to interact with him. In this way, he is distanced from society and cannot experience human contact the way he desires. Although he obtained great kleos through being the dead’s ruler, he would gladly get rid of it all and become “a hired hand… slaving away” if it meant he could be “back up on earth”. Odysseus’ absence from home makes him realize that he would rather be with his family and happy than have immortality, the greatest kleos, and depression. After a long stay on Calypso’s island, Odysseus declines her offer to stay forever saying, “She’s only human, and you are a goddess, eternally young. Still, I want to go back. My heart aches for the day I return to my home” (5.218-220). After his prolonged stay with Calypso, Odysseus realizes that he wants to go home to his wife, not stay with the goddess, even though she is “eternally young” and offers him immortality. His
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