Throughout The Odyssey, there are many different themes. While they range in importance, one stands above all. From Thrinacia, to Ithaca and even the Scylla, warnings and consequences are the most predominate theme, dictating events and teaching the readers of the epic to listen to and respect their superiors.
Thrinacia was the biggest example of warnings and consequences in The Odyssey. In it, Circe warns, “But if you harm them, I foretell / Disaster for your ship and crew” (Odyssey 12.145-6). This quote shows the blatant warning that Thrinacia’s cattle must go unharmed, and the entirety of the island should be avoided. This warning goes unheeded, as the men do eat the cattle. Upon eating the cattle, Helios addressed the immortal gods, saying “Father Zeus, and you other gods eternal, / Punish Odysseus’ companions, who have insolently / Killed the cattle…” (Odyssey 12.388-90). This excerpt shows the sheer anger of the Gods, specifically Helios, for the failure to listen. The men’s own disobedience led to their downfall. In general, disobedience to commands from a superior leads to consequences and possibly harm. For example, ignoring the instructions of a coach can lead to an athlete being benched. This would stand to show all the athletes that one should listen to the coach, or even broader, all should listen to their superiors. Not only were superiors ignored in Thrinacia, but also in the battle of the suitors’ parents, located in Ithaca.
Prior to the battle of the suitors’ parents, Phemios, Medon, and Halitherses warn the parents not to battle Odysseus and his men, noting that it won’t end well for them. The warning is quite clear, with Medon saying, “You have only yourselves to blame, my friends” (Odyssey 24.472) and, “Now listen to me and keep your peace. Some of you / Are looking for trouble–and you might just find it” (Odyssey 24.279-80). In this quote, Medon essentially warns the men of Thrinacia that Odysseus will kill them all if they skirmish with him, hence the last part of his message. In a greater sense, this warns of the consequences of being overcome with anger, and disobeying warnings. Some men, overcome with anger and grief for the loss of their sons, show complete and utter disregard for the warning, and decide to fight. In this fight, several die, including the father of Antinous, Eupeithes. The carnage only ends at the order of Athena, but, had she not interceded, more would have died for their disregard of the warning. As a result, it’s best to listen to the warnings you’re given, and the rewards for doing so are obvious in the fight with the Scylla.
The battle of the Scylla shows the reward for listening to the warnings given. While on Aeaea, the island of Circe, Odysseus is warned not to arm himself and fight back against the Scylla. When he listens, and doesn’t prepare for battle, the result is that, “Scylla seized six of my men from our ship, / The six strongest hands aboard” (Odyssey 12.252-3). This quote from The Odyssey shows the positives of heeding the warnings, the loss of only 6 men rather than all of them. Typically, listening to warnings will benefit you, as was the case in this epic. For instance, heeding the warnings about cigarettes will prevent smoking related illnesses and deaths, similar to how deaths were prevented by not fighting back. As a result, one will, once again, learn to respect warnings.
Throughout The Odyssey, unfortunate occurrences happen to many characters. This is predominate in Thrinacia and the skirmish with the suitors’ parents, but for the battle with the Scylla, things went as best they could. Almost all of this tragedy could have been easily avoided, had the characters listened to the obvious warnings given to them, both by gods and mortals. Instead of heeding, many allowed animalistic instinct, such as anger or hunger, to overcome their sense, and suffered the consequences for it. Warnings and consequences are the most predominate theme, dictating events and teaching the readers of the epic to listen to and respect their superiors.
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