In The Odyssey, Book 5, how does Odysseus's rejection of Calypso reflect ideals from Greek society?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Hermes, the messenger from Zeus, arrives at the resplendent cave of Calypso, he enters to give her the message that she must release Odysseus and let him sail for home. Angered that the gods can keep mortals but the goddesses are always chastised for it, Calypso lashes out, but after she calms down, she agrees to relinquish her hold over Odysseus.

When Calypso goes to Odysseus, she finds him sitting on the beach, his eyes full of tears,"crying aloud for his despair, and always looking out upon the sea." Calypso approaches him, telling him he is free to go, and she will help him fashion a strong raft to carry him across the sea to the isle of the Phaeaceans, where he will be aided. Once the raft is made, Odysseus embarks upon his journey, but sea-god Neptune stirs up the seas and Odysseus is again shipwrecked. Fortunately, a sea-nymph named Ion offers Odyssus a magical scarf to protect him as he floats along on the wreckage of his raft.

When he reaches shore, Odysseus cries,

"Alas, ...what ever will become of me, and how is it all to end?  

He debates with himself whether he should stay on the shore where the winds will be cold, or whether he should seek shelter in a thicket of the woods and risk being attacked by some beast. He decides to go to a thicket, where he covers himself with leaves and stays dry and warm. 

Odysseus's rejection of Calypso and the promise to become immortal demonstrates the traditional Greek belief in strong character and a sense of devotion to loved ones and values as the ideal of a hero. Always, Odysseus remembers his duty.

In addition, Book V underscores the concepts of fate and free will as two forces traditionally held by the Greeks. While Odysseus is certainly a victim of fate as Calyso holds him and Neptune tortures him, but he also accepts the stole from Ion and wisely makes the correct decision once he reaches shore to bed in the thicket where he keeps warm.

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