Odysseus: Theme Analysis
Home: Odysseus' desire to return to Ithaca governs his actions. He fights fiercely when attacked by much stronger enemies, and never gives up, even if this means that he must sacrifice his crew. Odysseus even overcomes the more pleasant obstacles, like the pleasant yet imprisoning treatment of Calypso, and the warm sentiments from Nausika and her family. When he returns home, his main priority is to regain his wealth and position, and he does this by mercilessly slaughtering those who were disloyal to him.
Customs: Customs that go against Greek ideals are looked down upon in The Odyssey. Odysseus' men are eaten because they assume that the Cyclops customs are the same as their own, and this is described as obviously savage. When the suitors abuse the Greek custom of hospitality, and act like leeches as they waste Odysseus' food and wealth, they are punished severely, more so than Polyphemous, because the suitors should know better being Greeks themselves.
Will of Gods: Zeus' will prevails in all things, but Athena runs the show in The Odyssey. She carefully sets up events to her liking, first guiding Telemachus on his journey to Pylos and his manhood, and then she arranges Odysseus' return to Ithaca. She masterminds the slaughter of the suitors, and Athena even stops further bloodshed when she orders the suitors' relatives to make peace with Odysseus. Athena has been pulling on the strings throughout the entire novel, with her father's permission, but to the main characters, life seems to be full of unfortunate choices and hard times.
Truth and Deception: The Odyssey is full of lies-from foes of Odysseus like Circe, to the suitors who plan to kill Telemachus while lodging in his house, Penelope lies to the suitors, and Odysseus often disguises his identity in lies to protect himself. A difference exists between the "good guys" lying and the "bad guys" lying, and it is one of intent. Penelope lies to the suitors so she can remain faithful to Odysseus, and Odysseus lies so that he will not be vulnerable to dangerous men.