The Analysis and Comparison of the Themes of "Beowulf", "The Odyssey" and Other Related Epics

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An epic is best described by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a long narrative

poem in elevated style recounting the deeds of a legendary or historical hero. Epics like

"Beowulf" and "The Odyssey" are perfect examples of this definition; they are each

centered on the deeds and triumphs of their heroes, Beowulf and Odysseus. All epics are

similar in a way that they are made up of elements. One major element of the epic is its

themes. In all epics, the themes are what make and mold these narrative poems, they

descriptively outline the story. Most epics, like "Beowulf" and "The Odyssey", have

themes like battles, homecoming, identity, recognition etc. Through themes like these,

morals, values and traditions relating to the main characters' customs and culture can be

introduced to the reader. The setup and purpose of the story, through the theme(s), can

also be introduced. Not only are the themes identity, battles, recognition and homecoming

related to "Beowulf" and "The Odyssey", but they are also linked to other epics as well.

"The Odyssey" is best described as "a guide to the Greeks, a guide to literature

and a guide to the complexities of society, identity, and home". There were many themes, both universal and timeless that thoroughly revealed the main ideas and issues of this legendary epic. The first and more stressed theme in "The Odyssey" is identity. "In Grecian times, the identities of human beings were associated with their properties, their name and their heritage or past". A Greeks' household was the foundation of his or her identity. Being that Odysseus was lost in search of his seized home, until he found it, he was considered a "nobody", or as he called himself, a "no-man". Like his home, Odysseus has to reclaim his great name as well. Without a name a man has no meaning or value. Not only does Odysseus search for his identity, but his son, Telemachus searches as well. Without knowing anything about his past (his father, Odysseus) Telemachus feels that he doesn't know who he is or what he's truly worth. Odysseus and Telemachus battle with their identities for the majority of the epic, which further explains why "identity" is one of the main themes. Next, the theme that relates to the theme of identity is homecoming. This theme supports Odysseus's long journey home. "In Greek, the tales of returning home were called Nostoi". To the Greeks, homecoming meant "reclaiming heritage, identity and loved ones" . There were many obstacles (Gods, people etc.) in the epic that tried

to deter Odysseus from reaching his home once again. In the epic, Homer shows the

reader how Odysseus feels by saying this, "sitting on the seashore and his eyes were never

wiped dry of tears, and the sweet lifetime was draining out of him, as he wept for a way

home". By including the ideas of loneliness and longing to be home, Homer

creates the theme of homecoming.

Another important theme in "The Odyssey" is battles. As well as searching for his

identity and home all throughout the epic, Odysseus also had to defend himself throughout

the epic. The battles in epics help build the character. They almost always result in victories and turn the main character(s) into legendary heroes. In "The Odyssey" there was

not a battle that Odysseus lost, he even defeated the almighty Poseidon, god of the sea, by

returning home. He had a lot of help from the goddess of wisdom, Athena. Without the

main idea of "heroes" along with battles and villains, epics would be undefined. Battles, as

a major theme in all epics, are needed to keep the story moving. Like all the themes in

"The Odyssey" each is linked to the other. The theme that is linked to the most important

one in this epic, identity, is recognition. Recognition in this epic focuses on Odysseus and

his disguise (an old man) that is given to him by Athena to help him reclaim his kingdom

and his wife. Homer shows how...