Essay On Prophecies In The Odyssey

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Prophets and prophecies abound in Western literature. From the ancient texts designed for people of all walks of life— such as Homer’s Odyssey and Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, to more modern works targeted to specific audiences— such as the Harry Potter and Gregor the Underlander series, authors have employed the literary device of prophecies to entice the reader to stay with the story. Instead of telling the reader outright what is going to happen, or how a situation will play out, the author offers a prophecy of some kind to the reader. Such prophecies are generally ambiguous, and often the reader is left confused as to what is actually going to happen. By using this technique, the author piques the interest of the reader yet allows for the…show more content…
Instead of the text providing a full, clear prophecy, the reader is given small amounts of foreknowledge at a time. For instance, the gods make it clear from early in the text that Odysseus will eventually return to his native land, but provide no real timeline for such an outcome. Later, Homer hints about some of the trials that Odysseus must overcome in order to finally return home, such as defeating the hordes of suitors in his palace. Homer alludes to how the hero might overcome such obstacles, but the author refuses to give any definite details until the obstacle is already upon Odysseus. The reader knows Odysseus will face a challenge but does not know if, or how, he will overcome it. In Oedipus Rex, conversely, the prophecies are laid out in their entirety. Both the prophecy regarding Jocasta and Laius and the prophecy about Oedipus are given in full detail, leaving the reader only to wonder if such horrible prophecies could come true. The exact nature of the tragedy which is prophesied is clear to the reader. There is little room for misinterpretation when the oracle says Laius’ son will “kill his father and sleep with his mother.” Similar to The Odyssey, however, the reader does not know how the hero of the tale will react to the prophecy if it is
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