Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fame -- I Want to Live Forever

Odysseus demonstrates a passionate desire for kleos or fame through much of the Odyssey. Consider, for example, his taunting Polyphemus with his name as he escapes his island (and there are other examples) Yet, is it presented as an unequivocally good pursuit? Does the search for kleos help or hinder his journey? What about situations in which he disguises his identity? What is the importance of kleos to Odysseus and the Odyssey (the two may not be the same answer)?


  1. Odysseus' desire for kleos, or fame, almost always is a source for trouble. His want for fame is a reoccurring theme throughout the entire epic. At every chance he gets, Odysseus spreads his story. Most often, Odysseus' want for fame "backfires" and stalls his journey home. The clearest example of when his pursuit for fame hindered his journey was the story of the Cyclops. While escaping the wrath of Polyphemus, Odysseus shouts out his name (hoping to gain fame). The Cyclops then curses the name of Odysseus and throughout the rest of the epic and his journey home Odysseus suffers for this. Poseidon, relative of the Cyclops, does everything within his power to hinder Odysseus' journey home and punish him for blinding Polyphemus.

    While often this pursuit for fame stalls his journey, there are a few instances where it surprisingly helps. In the story of Circe, the nymph, Odysseus' name saves him and his crew. As soon as Circe found out that he was Odysseus, she treated him well, released his crewmen and allowed him to stay in her palace for a year. She gave him instructions on how to pass through the Sirens and survive Scylla and Charybdis. In this example the spread of Odysseus' fame and name helped save him and his crew, and help him arrive home safely.

    Multiple times throughout the book Odysseus is forced into hiding his identity. Two major examples of this is when he arrived in Phaecia and when he finally returned home to Ithaca. While Odysseus could not gain fame through boasting his name and his identity, he found other ways to spread his story. While hiding in Ithaca, he assumes the identity of an old beggar man. He tells "his" story to the swineherd. In his tale he talks about the hero Odysseus, and his success. This was another way to gain fame without his "cover" being blown.

    Odysseus always seems to find a way to gain more and more power. To him this is his way of leaving a legacy. When he dies, he wants to be remembered as the famous war hero. Legacy seems to be very important in the eyes of Odysseus however, I believe his desire for kleos is also driven by the want to be famous. Even in today's society, fame and celebrities seem to live the perfect life. Who doesn’t want to be famous?

  2. I definitely agree with Jesse's comment when she says that Odysseus's love for fame can hinders him, and that he takes lots of opportunities to try to spread his fame, influence, and power. A powerful example of Odysseus's quest for fame is when he tries to spread his story to a very distant land. In previous posts, I talked about how Odysseus's tale to the Phaecians was most likely largely concocted, and not an accurate recollection of what actually happened. His creation and telling of a story that was probably made up just to spread his fame is an example of Odysseus's strive for glory. Still, this is not necessarily a powerful example of where Odysseus goes out of his way to spread his fame. After all, anyone could make up a completely unrealistic story about how they survived a 10-year-long journey that no one else survived. The (hackneyed) example of Odysseus's yelling his name at Polymeus serves as an instance where Odysseus's longing for fame is detrimental to his chances of survival.

    Despite the events described above, Odysseus’s journey contains more notable circumstances where he sacrifices fame in order to accomplish a goal or survive a dangerous encounter. A chronological recollection of these examples would begin with Odysseus’s infiltration of Troy. Every Trojan could have known the name of Odysseus if he had announced himself once inside the city’s walls, but instead he remained undercover and got in and out of the city in secret. Because Odysseus was discreet, he was able to complete his objective and win the Trojan War. This is not an example of recklessness but rather of self-control. Odysseus did the opposite of Jeopardize himself for fame: he accomplished an impressive feat that no one knew about until the Trojan War had ended. And this is far from the only case of Odysseus’s indifference to fame. When Odysseus meets the Phaecians, they hold a tournament in his honor. Although he can and later proves that he can outperform many Phaecian athletes, he does not. How can anyone argue that Odysseus is constantly blinded by fame and power when he rejects such an effortless opportunity to prove his prowess? Later, Odysseus shows us his controlled side when he returns to Ithaca after 10 years at Troy. Instead of trooping in with trumpets blaring and bards singing, Odysseus uses a safer strategy and infiltrates the palace disguised as a beggar. When encountering a loyal and good servant, Odysseus remains disguised and only tells a little about his story (most of which is a lie). The three examples above should clearly show that Odysseus is not nearly as blinded by fame as many are lead to believe.

  3. Odysseus' hunger for fame is a very big part of the Odyssey. To me, it is probably one of the main concepts of the epic. And, it is a very important thing to notice about this epic. But, Odysseus' want for fame is in most cases very inappropriate. Yes, he has disguised himself in some cases, and even lied in order to spread fame for himself. But, he becomes very selfish and careless while doing this.

    Throughout the book, the times where he has tried to spread his fame, he has lied about himself in most cases to make himself look better and more powerful than he is. This lying makes him look selfish, stupid, and like a coward. He is so preoccupied and worried about his fame, that he thinks that he has to lie about himself to get what he wants. And, it shows how much of a coward that he is because if one were really meant to be famous, they would not have to lie.

    Also, throughout the book, Odysseus' preoccupation with his fame makes him careless. He clearly shows how he cares way more about his fame than his own family, making him careless about everything about his life except for his fame. Throughout the story, he spends more time on his journey worried about fame than worrying about getting home.

    All of this brings to question what his journey is all about. Is his journey really about getting back to Penelope, or is it about his selfish worldwide spread of his own fame?

  4. In The Odyssey, Odysseus demonstrates a passionate desire for kleos, otherwise known as fame. By Odysseus demonstrating a passionate desire for fame, this can cause trouble. Whenever he can, Odysseus promotes himself. While on his journey home, Odysseus’s want for fame essentially stabs him in the back. An example of Odysseus’s want for fame that hindered his journey was the story of the Cyclops. In attempt of escaping Polyphemus’s evil clutches, Odysseus yells his name, an act in order to gain fame. Then, Polyphemus curses him and Poseidon, Polyphemus’s father, punishes Odysseus and hinders his journey home for stabbing his son in his eye. However, there are some examples in The Odyssey that actually aid Odysseus. An example is the story of Circe and how Odysseus’s well-known name saves him and his shipmates. When Circe finally realized that Odysseus was in her presence, the nymph treated him kindly, freed his shipmates and gave Odysseus the opportunity to stay in her palace for one whole year. Circe gave him and his shipmates guidelines on how to go through the Sirens and how to endure Scylla and Charybdis. This example shows how the spread of Odysseus’s name aided to save him and his shipmates to come home safely. Also, there are some occurrences in The Odyssey, when Odysseus has to disguise his identity. An example of this is when he returned to his native land, Ithaca. In Ithaca, Odysseus is changed into an old beggar man. When Odysseus is with the swineherd, he tells the story of Odysseus and his success (his story). This is yet another attempt for Odysseus to gain fame without being caught. To me, Odysseus is always looking for the opportunity to gain fame. The reason Odysseus wants fame is to ultimately leave an everlasting legacy. When Odysseus passes, he wants to be recognized as one of the most famous war heroes in history. In the eyes of Odysseus, legacy is extremely important. However, Odysseus’s passionate desire for kleos is also driven by him wanting to be famous.