The role of the gods in Odysseus' and other characters' fate

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Odyssey outlined Odysseus' problematic return to his homeland. Although only ten years have passed since the conclusion of the Trojan War, it is discovered that Odysseus, who is believed to be the most cursed of all living beings, has gone missing, and many people thought that he was dead. It is clear from the story that gods play an important part in the fate of Odysseus and many other characters.
Contrary to Telemachus' suggestion that "Zeus is who gives what he wishes to every man on earth" (1.368-369), the extent of the gods' position is not unqualified. Even though Zeus is observed to possess’ power, his explanation of how individuals meet their fate is correctly depicted in the narrative. Zeus appropriately pointed out that, “Mortals! They are always blaming the gods for their troubles when their own witlessness causes them more than they were destined for!” (1.37-39). In this case, many of the said mortals aggravate the ill fate by ignoring the warnings of gods and making rash decisions. The gods often aid humans in need and are also not always disrupting mortal lives. More often than not, mortals who benefit greatly are those who effectively court the favor of the gods. No one god’s power is insurmountable while the god’s strengths are not questionable. The wrath of the gods can be escaped as they can be outsmarted. In correspondence with the statement by Zeus, the Odyssey eventually portrayed human freedom as limited though existent.

The mortals fail to recognize that they are responsible for their fate and thus viewed to possess a sizable extent of control. With these said, the mortals cannot unjustly complain about their fortunes. There exists modest uncertainty that Odysseus crews were unlucky and they would have arrived at Ithaca if it was not for their rash decisions. Odysseus cleverly escaped the Cyclops, Polyphemos, and later his pride gets the best of him and proclaiming that if any mortal man questions about how you got the eye put out, one should answer by saying that Odysseus the prowler did it (9.500-503).

The misfortune of Odysseus was furthered by his arrogance because Polyphemos is the son of Poseidon. Polyphemos went on and requested his father not to give a chance to Odysseus to return, and if he does then, it will be well overdue and without his team. In this case, the wrath of Poseidon against Odysseus is the fault of Odysseus. Odysseus would not have been termed the ill fate if he had not told the Cyclops his name. Odysseus with a single impetuous decision surrenders control of his fortune to Poseidon after conceding to Polyphemos. At this point, the stupidity of Odysseus indicates that mortals own a necessary extent of control over their ill fate.

After being freed from the island, Odysseus decided to venture into the underworld to talk with prophet Tiresias who was not a mortal and not a god. Along with the knowledge that Odysseus had a desire to go back home, this made Poseidon angry. Ahead of speaking with the prophet, he learned that seeking a homecoming is sweet, but a god will make it bitter. He also learns that “Still you might just get home, though not without pain, you and your men if you curb your own spirit and theirs” (11.97-104).

At this point in the novel, the fate of Odysseus is to return home eventually, but this fate is not set in stone. If he is unable to curb his spirit as well as his crew’s spirit, he may very well die and probably never return to Ithaca. Odysseus’ interaction with Tiresias highlights once again that even though the gods may have a particular plan for a mortal, the mortal still has a significant amount of control his fate.

A mortal’s fate often depends on a mortal’s ability to court a god's support effectively, and therefore one’s fate rests in his control. The gods play a vital role in The Odyssey, continually intervening when Odysseus is in need. Odysseus garners the favor of the gods by his heroic and cunning actions in the Trojan War. Athena lauds him as “a godly king” (5.14). He has established himself as a mortal worthy of the gods’ support. Athena, intent on allowing Odysseus to return, convinces Zeus to let him return home. Athena guides Odysseus and his son, Telemachus, throughout the entire novel. Other gods seem eager to help Odysseus too.

Calypso asserts that she will assist him. “I’ll do everything I can. To get him back safely to his own native land” (5.143-144). Aeolus, the god of winds, was charmed by Odysseus. With these said, Aeolus gives Odysseus a bag that was made of the skin of an ox, and in the pocket, Aeolus bounded the ways of the wild winds so that he can go with it. The bag furthers or accelerates his journey home. When his crew became wary of what is in the back bag, they opened it discharging all the winds that were in the bag. Furthermore, Hermes gladly assisted Odysseus on the island by giving him an herb. Hermes stops Odysseus from being undyingly under the control of the Circe and not going back to his homeland. The actions of Odysseus led to his popularity among the gods, and it’s the favor of gods that was essential for him to finish his arduous and challenging voyage.

The Odyssey portrays the freedom of people as strongly impacted by the divine power. The influence of the religious authority is not omnipresent but potent. The journey of Odysseus back from the island of Calypso would have been different without intervention and divine power. As mentioned above his mission would not have succeeded. Athena demonstrates the limits of religious power when chiding Telemachus by saying, “Even the gods cannot ward off death,/ from a man they love, not when destiny comes to lay him low” (3.261-263). Such a message is powerful since it comes from a god. Even though human freedom still exists, it is influenced by the divine power. As noted before, individuals often deteriorate their predicaments as we can see Odysseus taunting Polyphemos and the crew opening up the bag of winds. With such said and given that their decisions influenced their plight, it can be concluded that human beings must have some level of freedom even if it is restricted or inadequate. The abilities of mortals to navigate their conditions will result in a more straightforward life. The creatures will not suffer if they can avoid the ill will of the gods by making intelligent decisions and securing the favor of the gods. While also recognizing how mortals raise their pain, it is evident that Odyssey supports the belief of Zeus concerning mortals’ desolation because he acknowledges his responsibility for their suffering. From the discussion above, it can be concluded that gods play a significant role in the destiny of Odysseus and other characters.

September 01, 2021



Greek Mythology

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Character Trojan War Odysseus

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Expertise Odysseus
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