Compare and contrast the peril of the Sirens and the peril of the Lotus-Eaters.

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cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most important difference between the two temptations is the difference between life and death. If Odysseus' sailors eat the lotus, they forget about home, but they live. If, on the other hand, they succumb to the alluring songs of the Sirens, the sailors will die because their ship will crash on the rocks where the Sirens perch to sing. (Some versions of stories about the Sirens indicate that men are so enchanted by their songs that the men jump into the sea.)

A second difference lies in the sense to which each temptation appeals. The "honeyed" lotus appeals to the sense of taste while the Sirens' beautiful song is something the men would hear.

In both cases, evasive action must be taken to save the men. Odysseus has to go ashore to rescue the men who have already eaten the lotus. To avoid hearing the Sirens' song, he plugs his sailors' ears with wax. Because Odysseus wants to hear the lovely song, however, he has the men tie him to the ship's mast so he cannot steer the ship to sure disaster when he inevitably gives in to temptation.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The peril presented by the lotus-eaters is that, once one eats the lotus fruit, one never wants to go home again. The peril presented by the sirens is that, once one hears the sirens' song, one never can go home again. The lotus fruit, offered by the lotus-eaters, makes a person completely forget their values and priorities; once Odysseus's men eat the fruit, they no longer want to return to their families in Ithaca. He has to actually drag them back to the ship by force. Then, when his ship sails past the sirens, he has already been warned by Circe to plug his men's ears with beeswax and have them lash him to the mast so that he cannot jump overboard when he hears the sirens' music. He does so, but then he desperately begs his men to untie him as they row by the island, but they cannot hear him. Odysseus is quite willing to risk leaping to his death in order to reach the sirens. In both cases, the people involved lose sight of the thing that they really want: to get home.

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The Odyssey

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