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The Life Of Odysseus: A Study Of The Symbolic Meaning Of The Oak Tree

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Planting the oar is best fitting for Odysseus as it helps him come to closure with many events in his life. Odysseus has been on a journey his entire life, travelling the seas to reach home. Planting an oar in the ground signifies the final end to his journey, much like how the United States planted a flag on the moon at the end of their journey. On his journey, Odysseus has also wronged many and in placing the oar into the ground, it can be compared to be planting a plant. He is realizing his mistakes and putting them aside, starting over again; the plant. Finally, fixing the oar into the ground also gives him the death he deserves as it allows him to conclude his life’s journey modestly, with an oar that represents his time at sea. Odysseus was told by Teirêsias to plant an oar as his final task which is filled with symbolism regarding his life. Planting the oar is a fitting final task for Odysseus because it acts as a continuation and also a completion to his journey, allows him to come to closure with those he has wronged, and gives him a fit death.

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The planting of the oar is the perfect conclusion of this chapter of Odysseus’s life and the start of something new. Odysseus has spent most of his life on the sea, journeying across many islands trying to find his way back home. After finally reaching home, a revered prophet advises that he “take an oar and trudge the mainland, going from town to town, until I discover men have never known the salt blue sea… there I must plant my oar” (23.298-308). The oar is symbolic as Odysseus journeyed across the sea on his boat for most of life. It represents his life’s voyage and in planting the oar, it symbolizes his journey being over. Furthermore, Odysseus was told to take the symbolic piece and travel to a place where the men there had never seen the sea. Doing this will act as a continuation of his journey as he knows so much about life on the oceans that he can pass on to others.

The task given to Odysseus also serves as a chance for him to make amends with those he has wronged. Along his journey on sea, Odysseus showed hubris and acted as if he was superior to others, not caring to listen to their advice. In doing so, he ended up mistreating many others. An example of this was when Odysseus had shown great arrogance when trying to escape the cyclops. Because of Odysseus’s arrogance, the sea god, Poseidon, turned against Odysseus and hindered his homecoming. Now that Odysseus is finally home after his long journey, it was suggested to him that he must give “burnt offerings to Poseidon of the Waters” (23.309). In order to make amends, with the god that he offended, Odysseus should offer animals as a peace offering. In planting the oar, it also shows putting the past behind and starting afresh. The oar symbolizes Odysseus’s time at sea and in “planting” it, it shows that he wants to make amends for his wrongdoings. Much like a small plant is placed into the ground for it to grow, Odysseus is learning from his misbehavior and growing from it.

Being told to plant an oar also gives the death that Odysseus deserves. Odysseus was told by Terises to “take an oar and trudge the mainland… until I discover men who have never known the salt blue sea” (23.298-301). Odysseus was told to take an oar on this final journey. A regular oar is very modest and humble. It is not ornate or fancy; it is just a common item that anyone can possess. Due to the great amount of hubris he has shown in his life, taking an unpretentious item is the best way to conclude from his life as he now realizes his wrongdoings. Odysseus was also told to travel to an area where the people there have never seen the ocean before. This is symbolic as Odysseus from learning from his mistakes, now has the wisdom to educate others about his wrongdoings at sea. This task for Odysseus gives him the justifiable death he has earned himself. He has learned from his mistakes and now educate others about his journey.

In planting an oar into the ground of people who have never seen the sea before is ideal duty for Odysseus to perform. It concludes yet also acts as an extension of his journey, apologize to those he has wronged and provides him the death he deserves. The task of planting an oar can be compared to planting a flag or a plant. When one plants a plant, it represents a new beginning. A new start can be showing Odysseus’s closure with those he has harmed and the beginning of a new chapter to his life. There is a common saying that one reaps what they sow. Odysseus sowed an oar which directly symbolizes many elements in his life. With this task, Odysseus is able to reap a justifiable death, a bittersweet ending to his journey and closure with those he has done wrong.

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