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Role of Storytelling in the Odyssey, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction

Storytelling is a type of art that is mostly found in the literature of different kinds. Stories come in a variety of forms, such as songs, poetry, or even plays. Storytelling is the cultural and social activity of sharing stories, which sometimes include improvisation, embellishments, or theatrics (Russell). Each culture contains its narratives or stories, which they share as a means of cultural preservation, entertainment, education, or instilling moral values (Konvisser). Therefore, storytelling can be described as a means of interpreting and sharing one’s experiences. It can be used in teaching values, ethics, as well as cultural norms and differences. For instance, most of the time, learning is most effective if it takes place in a social environment that provides the learner with authentic social cues and those that indicate the application of knowledge. Storytelling, therefore, acts as a means of passing knowledge in a social context. It is essential as it promotes the liveliness of learning of language and enables creating an immersive and participatory experience, which allows the learners to enjoy learning more about language in an entertaining, stylistic and dynamic manner. Through storytelling, the learner is also able to be aware of and enjoy the tone of the voice, the intonation phrases used, natural expressions and soundings, and the interaction between the different speakers. It also offers insights into life experiences, encourages the use of creativity and imagination, and promotes well-being, relaxation, and fun. Generally, storytelling provides every person a chance to enjoy language and discover new worlds, worlds, and new things about themselves, such as their personalities.

The Odyssey is full of storytelling. In The Odyssey, storytelling was a way of entertainment to Greek society. There were no televisions, no cell phones, no radio, no games, no movies, and no internet during that period. So the Greek society had to come up with a way of entertaining themselves. Men, women, and children used to listen to any stories given with a lot of attentiveness than they would later share the stories throughout their lives to the next generations. Storytelling during that period took many forms, such as songs, poems, or even tales. If the element of storytelling was never included in the Odyssey, then Odysseus’s story would have been concise and also very insignificant in Greek society. This paper will analyze the role of storytelling in the Odyssey by looking at the poem’s varied rhetorical situations.

Storytelling in the Odyssey

Since the beginning of humanity, people have continuously tried to develop ways to keep concrete records of their life experiences. For instance, there were the cavemen drawings in the underground caverns. There came the hieroglyphics from Egyptians, and later there were the vast libraries of knowledge in the ancient Italy and Greece centers. All these stories and histories played an integral part in society at large. A few renowned books with exceptional storytelling arts also emerged and studied from one generation to the other. One such work is The Odyssey, which is an epic poem by a blind poet named Homer. Homer could not read because he was blind and also because, during that time, people did not know how to read or even write. Therefore, he was an oral storyteller who used to recount vast tales for entertaining people, and most of the time, he accompanied it with musical accompaniments. The Odyssey can be said to be Homer’s greatest work and one of the best-known pieces from him. The telling of stories as well as the stories take a large part of the poem. In the poem, the main characters are set on a journey, and throughout the journey of the characters, the reader learns a lot about their essence from the encounters they get.  From the journeys of the characters’ experience, the art of storytelling by the author portrays itself.

The original medium used to convey Homer’s Odyssey was the spoken word. Initially, it was a compelling and entertaining story. The story has survived for thousands of years due to its depth in penetrating the in-depth details that govern the interaction between humans and the social order. The Odyssey is of great importance to Greek culture and is also signifies the importance of storytelling. Storytelling is an essential part of nature and serves an essential purpose for most cultures. Storytelling also provides an easier medium of remembrance where culture, values, and customs are passed from one generation to the next. Through the Odyssey, Homer tries to show us that it is impossible to maintain our culture without storytelling.

In the poem, Odyssey goes through twenty years away from his wife and children. Determined that he would one day return home, Odysseus fought monsters and men, he was rejected by wooers from his city, and he also met many people who tried to trick him as he journeyed back home (Finley). He saw no peace as he traveled back home. Odysseus is always lamenting on how he misses his family and how he also misses going home. When he finally manages to find his way back home, he hides his true identity and becomes a beggar where he plans revenge against the wooers who had stolen from him and taken over his city. In the end, Odysseus reveals himself, and war emerges where the wooers are killed. I think that Odysseus’s actions of killing the wooers are justified. We can see his loyalty to his family and his home. He was very willing to die to ensure that his family was protected.

Even in today’s world, people still need the help of therapists, family members, and psychologies when they face struggles in life to help them cope with sorrow and grief. This is exactly what Odysseus is trying to do in his work. He does this by telling people his feelings by narrating to them about his voyage back home. Through his legendary stories, it can be seen as a therapy session for Odysseus. By telling his stories, Odysseus was able to make good and fulfill his heart’s desires (Austin 3). He could relieve himself from his mournful feelings by telling the stories, and all that mattered to him was getting home. Through his stories, Odysseus engaged his listeners by making an implication that they were with him, talking to them, and ensuring that he involved them as if they were there. Odysseus has been referred to as a great teller of tales (Beck, 213). People were so entertained with his form of storytelling that they never got tired of listening to him. His skills and techniques in storytelling caught the attention and hearts of many of his listeners.

The act of storytelling in The Odyssey plays an integral part in revealing the story of Odysseus. Each storyteller focuses on showing Odysseus’ past deeds as well as his heroic deeds. The art of storytelling knitted Odysseus’ life together and also provided many features about his character. The features reflected and the moral lessons from the Odyssey’s storytelling provided the Greek society with the ideal man to look up to. Someone whom the society would talk about and get inspiration from. Through storytelling, Odysseus was created to be an immortal man who the community talks about up-to-date. Each story given provides an insight into what is expected of a hero according to the Greek society standard, and each of the stories often reflected different aspects of heroes. After piecing together the stories, they become whole, with each story having a different function in the epic story. Some of the stories also aimed at teaching a moral lesson to the audience, while others had a direct contribution to the hero. The audience of The Odyssey was the Greek society. In the Odyssey, through storytelling, the hero was created as an ideal and later spread out through the land to become a legend. Thus in the creation of Odysseus as a hero, many storytellers were involved. The multiple narratives of these epics summarize the oral storytelling tradition and the Greece culture fictional world. It also signifies the various heroic and noblemen of those times.

Homer purposely sends the characters on a journey so that he can assign them, assistants. For instance, from the beginning to the end of The Odyssey, Homer makes it look like the goddess Athena is Odysseus’s exclusive assistant. Homer provides a display of Athena’s assistance to Odysseus either through consulting other gods or disguising him on his behalf. All of Athena’s actions are aimed at benefiting Odysseus. For instance, Athena disguises Odysseus when he makes him appear more handsome so that Nausicaa can be attracted to him (Liberman 218). From this, Odysseus is invited to the palace, which ultimately helps him get back home. The introduction of Athena’s authority makes it appear as if Odysseus is at an advantage over any person that stands in his way. Athena’s character gives Odysseus extra support and ability, which enables him to succeed in situations that are challenging, and this enables Odysseus to be the hero that he is (Olson 3). Throughout the characters’ journeys, the main matters that surfaced to teach the reader more about them include goals, women, and assistants. For instance, Odysseus’s sending on his journey makes him come across some of the major concerns that formed the major part of the storytelling. This makes the reader appreciate the character of Odysseus.

Most of the Odyssey part is all about Odysseus narrating to the Phaiakans about his voyage from Troy to their land. This forms that major part of the Odyssey as most of the iconic scenes occur during that part of the poem. This includes the sorceress circle, the land of the dead, and the dreaded cyclopes (Byre 357). Later, we see that storytelling is used as a means of deceit as Odysseus finds his way into getting into his household through false. Homer uses storytelling as a significant fabric that intertwines the entire epic together because the story is relayed to the audience through the use of another character telling others about their exploits and because it provides a link as to how Odyssey was orally recounted as an original story.

When Odysseus is shipwrecked, he loses his boats as well the death of all his men; we see that he is saved by the Phaiakians (Austin 4). The sea fears folk invited him to a grand festival where he offered him a seat of honor. During that time, Alkinoos, the Phaiakians’ king, asked Odysseus to narrate his story. This part provides the true picture of Odyssey as He goes ahead and narrates all about his adventures in the sea. Most readers hold that an excessive amount of the Odyssey is spent on clasping of knees, weeping, and sitting at a table dining, and this is the part that has historically gone down most. There is also the exception of the slaughter that is seen at the end, which happens to be an exciting part of the poem. It is also a very clever narrative device to have Odysseus tell the narrative himself as it provides the reader with deeper insights into his mind as a hero, his thoughts, and also his perception on different matters (Olson 2) From the storytelling, the reader can learn more about his thinking process and also witness some of the mistakes that Odysseus makes along the way. For instance, Odysseus foolishly tarried in the cyclopes liar. The storytelling also provides the reader with actions of heroism from Odysseus, such as saving his men from time to time. By Odysseus telling his own stories to the Phaiakians, he can convince them to help him as a hero, and they also go-ahead to offer him lavish gifts. They also safely conveyed him to his homeland of Ithaka (Liberman 219).

In the Odyssey, storytelling plays a significant part in helping people to interact with each other. Most of the time, you find that there is rarely a part where there is an outright dialogue between two people. Instead, there is one person who is telling their tale, and the others listen. It is also crucial to note that there are rewards that come from storytelling. For instance, we see that after narrating their stories, both Odysseus and his son Telemachus are provided with aid. Nestor helps Telemachus in telling his story because he is a well-spoken person. We also see that storytelling holds much interest to those who listen to them in the poem. For instance, king Alkinoos can listen to the stories given all that without feeling tired or bored.  It is also important to note that the Phemios, the singer, and Herald Medon are the only ones who were spared during the final suiters massacre (Byre 358).  The numerous stories in the Odyssey, therefore, make it more interesting.

In the Odyssey, storytelling is also used as a powerful tool for deception. Odysseus is guiltier of this than anyone else in the poem. Upon returning to his homeland in Ithaka, he tells the first person he meets, disguised Athena, a long and detailed story he forms on the spot. Athena goes ahead and praises Odyssey for the tale but tells him he ought to have fooled another person. Odysseus being a non-trusting individual goes ahead and tours his homeland where he meets his friends, but he still did not reveal himself to anyone. This way, Odysseus can see those who are still loyal to him and those that are not. By explaining and giving his false story to the Swineherd, Odysseus learns more about what has been going on in Ithaka for the years he had not been around. The same way that true tales from Odysseus’ had gained him a seat at the Phaiakians table, his false story to the Swineherd Eumaios gave him admiration and glory, and he was also able to get food and rest for the night (Schein 75). Odysseus is seen as a master of trickery where through one of his tales, to Swineherd, he hints that he wanted to mantle. Odysseus then makes his return to his house after staying away for twenty years, where he uses his beggar’s personality to test out for the best suiters and see who will be arranged for him. The deception that Odysseus uses was vital in his plan, and therefore he had to play along with his role to see the various reactions that his disguise got from different suiters. The ability of Odysseus to make up stories, therefore, proves helpful and useful to him.

Even when read in translation, the Odyssey’s rhythm flows well, and the language used is striking. Each line blends with the next one, and this makes the feeling poetic. From all the repetition that is evident in the poem, we can conclude that in the initial oral tale, the storyteller was probably repeating himself too, not only as a form of reminder to the audience but also as a memory tonic for him (Basthomi 197) For instance, when Telemachus goes to Menelaus, he tells him the exact thing that he had said to Nestor. In the poem, the characters are also referred to through epigraphs, such as thoughtful Telemachus and resourceful Odysseus. The repetition of these epigraphs is evident in the poem, which acts as a constant reminder to the listeners. They also help out in rounding up the lines to fit within the given rhythmic meter, thus enhancing the flow of the story. This explains why the poem’s spoken aspects can still be felt many years after it was created.

In sum, it is evident that the power of storytelling and stories in the Odyssey is very significant, and it makes it unique. The stories allow each character’s shining and enable the characters to have their own stories told first-hand. The most compelling story can, therefore, be seen as that of Odysseus about his voyage. This makes up his Odyssey. The fact that Odysseus tells his tales even when some of them are not true is so fitting. From that, we also see that through using deception in storytelling, Odysseus can create a whole character, which enables him to pull off his schemes. Finally, the poem’s origin also has a great impact on how it is studied and read today. Its best translations ensure that the quirks are kept, and the repetition in its original form is maintained.

Works Cited

Austin, Norman. “Name Magic in the” Odyssey.” California Studies in Classical Antiquity 5 (1972): 1-19.

Basthomi, Yazid. “Rhetorical odyssey and trajectories: a personal reflection.” TEFLIN Journal 17.2 (2006): 187-199.

Beck, Deborah. “Odysseus: Narrator, Storyteller, Poet?.” Classical Philology 100.3 (2005): 213-227

Byre, Calvin S. “The Rhetoric of Description in” Odyssey” 9.116-41: Odysseus and Goat Island.” The Classical Journal 89.4 (1994): 357-367.

Finley, Moses I. The world of Odysseus. New York Review of Books, 2002.

Konvisser, Z. “Healing Returning Veterans: The Role of Storytelling and Community.” (2016)

Liberman, M. Nahra. “The Odyssey And Theme Of Storytelling.” Centennial Review (1970): 213-224.

Olson, S. Douglas. “Name-Magic” and the Threat of Lying Strangers in Homer’s” Odyssey.” Illinois Classical Studies 17.1 (1992): 1-7.

Russell, Craig Morrison. Homer’s Roads Not Taken: Stories and Storytelling in the Iliad and Odyssey. Diss. UCLA, 2013.

Schein, Seth L. “Odysseus and Polyphemus in the Odyssey.” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 11.2 (1970): 73-83.

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