The life of a God, forever bliss, complete happiness: Odysseus slights all of these things in order for him to return to his loving wife and son. The concept of true commitment was a very commendable quality for a Greek hero to possess. With this character trait, Odysseus models the ideal husband, father, and leader. Unfortunately, in today’s society, one rarely encounters such outstanding morality. Being raised in an explicit society, a decrease in certain morals has become fashionable. In particular, the college experience has become accepted as the “wild times” of one’s life.
Certain activities ordinarily shunned are now perceived as a learning experience when involving a college student. Drugs and alcohol abuse are commonplace around the college campus, as is sexual promiscuity. In addition, the amount of college dropouts after the first year is at a high rate. Today’s average student does not seem to contend with hardship very well. These things seem to increase at an outstanding rate with no sign of leveling. Odysseus faced all of these things, yet still made it back home.
Some of the decisions of Odysseus probably were accepted as required actions in ancient times, but in today’s hedonistic world, not every person– especially the typical male college student– would be able to resist the wonders of temptation that were presented to Odysseus. The Odyssey’s main theme involves the exploring of the hardships Odysseus endures. Ranging from a whirlpool, unfavorable winds, and a visit to the Cyclops, disaster finds him at every turn. Zeus decided Odysseus’s fate when he proclaimed: let him depart. But let him have no company, gods or men,
Only a raft that he must lash together, And after twenty days, worn out at sea, He shall make land upon the garden aisle. (263) This edict of Zeus summarizes the journey Odysseus makes in order to return home. He endures dire hardships to make the journey home, yet he still chooses to continue forward. Although Odysseus accepts this hardship as a mere speed bump, many people today would not prevail through such adversity. A knack for finding the easy way out has seemed to blossom as the one uniform skill possessed by most young people today.
With today’s technology, a person rarely spends an afternoon by himself, and if so, would not like it. With this in mind, choosing to continue on with the journey in present times would be much harder of a decision to make than in ancient times. Another problem around school campuses is the growing rate of alcohol and drug abuse amongst students. Extreme marijuana usage has taken claim to many victims. The drug may not kill the person using it, but it does kill motivation. The drug becomes a part of the user’s life, and the user will eventually become lethargic.
This lethargy continues to increase until most productive activities are eliminated. Although Odysseus’s crew did not have marijuana on their ship, his crew did encounter a drug that posed a similar threat. Odysseus explains the drug, “but those who ate this honeyed plant, the Lotus,/ never cared to report, nor to return:/ they longed to stay forever”(305). This Lotus plant seems to have a similar effect as the marijuana plant. Unlike many college students, Odysseus does not yield nor does he allow his crew to indulge in the plant.
Odysseus warns his crew,”no one taste/ the Lotus, or you lose your hope of home”(305). Obviously, Odysseus places the idea of returning home above the idea of a life of complete bliss with no worries. Drugs are not the only temptation facing Odysseus during his journey. He encounters the beautiful goddess Calypso on an island. Calypso develops a strong affection for the hero, and to Hermes she explains, “I fed him, loved him, sang that he should not die/ nor grow old, ever, in all the days to come”(265). Odysseus finds himself the object of a goddess’s desire, but still is not happy.
This is demonstrated when Odysseus begins to cry while looking at the sea. The hero finds himself in a very enviable position: a beautiful goddess loves him, and he will be able to live forever with her. The typical male college student can actually find himself in a similar position. This situation usually occurs when one has to leave his high school sweetheart back home in order to go a great distance to college. In most cases, this long-distance relationship does not work out, usually ending when the guy meets a beautiful coed who lives next door.
However, Odysseus leaps at the chance to return home, and explains to Calypso: If any god has marked me out again for shipwreck, my tough heart can undergo it. What hardship have I not long since endured at sea, in battle! Let the trial come. (267) His resolve to return to his wife Penelope is obviously strong; so Odysseus does what most college students did not, return home. Throughout these journeys, Odysseus proved himself to be very committed to returning home. This noble quality cannot be found as easily today.
With all the temptations and distractions in modern times, men with such commitment may be a dying breed. Difficult times, alcohol or drug abuse, and the presence of women have certainly provided the young college male equal distractions to those Odysseus faced when he was lost. Although the great commitment Odysseus possesses does not occur today as much as it should, this quality is still admired, and those who have it are held in high prestige. With this in mind, Homer’s Odyssey still represents a similar journey that most college males must endure.