How can the journeys of Odysseus' be compared to specific real life events?
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The journey and wanderings of Odysseus are the journey and wanderings that we all experience in life. Odysseus is seeking to establish his true identity. Like all of us, Odysseus is trying to be who he really is. At one point, in Odyssey 9, Odysseus even sinks so low that he claims to be "Nobody." Only at the end of the epic does Odysseus re-establish himself as the "real" Odysseus. He can, without fear of repercussion or contradiction, say that he is the husband of Penelope, the father of Telemachus, and the ruler of Ithaca.
Like most people, Odysseus also experiences temptation, especially sexual temptation. The goddess Calypso tempts him with life everlasting; the goddess Circe tempts him with a life of pleasure on her island; the beautiful mortal princess Nausicaa presents an opportunity for Odysseus to have a new bride and a new life on Phaeacia. The Sirens tempt Odysseus with pleasure and wisdom:
"No man rows past this isle in his dark ship without hearing the honeysweet sound from our lips. He delights in it and goes his way a wiser man" (A.S. Kline translation).
Finally, like most people, Odysseus struggles to endure and overcome the various obstacles he faces in life. In his encounter with the Cyclops, Odysseus' curiosity almost costs him his life. Odysseus' temper and pride cause him to reveal his true identity to the Cyclops, which results in Odysseus incurring Poseidon's wrath.
In sum, numerous things that Odysseus experiences also happen to us. Of course, we don't literally face one-eyed giants or witches, but we do face the same sorts of challenges and temptations that Odysseus faces. Ultimately, we are all trying to find out who we are and what we are supposed to do with our lives.
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