The Odyssey Questions and Answers
by Homer

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In The Odyssey, the main character goes to Hell for answers.  Besides going to a physical Hell (the Underworld), would you say Odysseus goes through a personal Hell, mentally, because of his anguish at being lost at sea and missing his family?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Yes, I think it's fair to characterize Odysseus's experiences as amounting to a personal hell as a result of his protracted and distressing absence from home.  While he is actually going through this odyssey, he seems so distracted by trying to stay alive, trying to keep his men alive, and reeling from their betrayals that he seems almost too busy to think much.  Then, he must survive terrible storms, overcome awful monsters, and deal with the caprices of Calypso, the goddess who holds him captive against his will for seven years.  He doesn't seem to have much time to think, and he wouldn't want to betray weakness in front of his crew.  

However, when Odysseus, alone, finally arrives in Phaeacia, and he hears the bard Demodocus sing songs about him, he pulls his cloak around his head, "hiding his beautiful face; for he felt shame before the Phaeacians as from beneath his brow he dropped the tears."  Odysseus's inability to refrain from crying, especially in such a public place, shows how very damaged he's been by the perils he's faced as well as how painful it has been for him.  Then, when he begins to tell his story, he says "Nothing more sweet than home and parents can there be, however rich one's dwelling far in a foreign land [...]."  Getting home to his family was his one goal all along, and it seems a hell to have been apart from them, even when he was with the goddesses.

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