Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The question and the Odyssey

My question is this:
In the face of adversity, what causes some people to fail and others to prevail?

This is a universal question that can never be fully answered. What are those personal characteristics that cause some people to survive adversity with grace and for others to fail? Is it luck of the draw? Do some people have greater strength and ability than others? Or is it all fate that allows one person to become the hero in adversity and the other to become the villain? This question may be unanswerable, but it is worth pursuing to better understand the human condition.

In the Odyssey, the main character Odysseus faces much adversity on his long journey home and prevails over all. Why he is the one to survive is obvious through an understanding of the text and the Greek culture. Odysseus is blessed with incredible brawn and wit, all of which he relies on heavily to help him escape from one disaster to the next. He is a step above his men because of his superiority and hero-status. His shipmates fail in the face of adversity. On the island of Kirke, they are easily swayed into her power and she turns them into pigs. Why are these men different than Odysseus? The Greeks elevated him to a higher level than common people so in the eyes of their culture would they say that you must be a hero to prevail over adversity? That would leave the rest of us to be on the level of his shipmates whom allow adversity to take their lives. It's not a very comforting thought. Just like in the Odyssey, it is a common theme throughout literature that hero's are the ones who prevail over adversity. Look at Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Wonderwoman. All of these characters are similar to Odysseus in the sense that they are greater than the common man and this allows them to succeed. I'm not sure I buy into this theory. Every day people prevail over adversity every day by simply surviving.

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