In "The Odyssey," what is the conflict and resolution of "The Cattle of The Sun God" and "The Land of the Dead"?

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Homer's epic poem The Odyssey, the main conflict in "The Cattle of the Sun God" is that the men with Odysseus eat the cattle that belong to the sun god Helios. They were warned not to eat them, and obeyed this order for a while. But when storms battered the island and their supplies of food and drink dwindled, their hunger grew to desperation and they slaughtered the cows. This is a man versus man conflict (Odysseus versus his disobedient men) as well as man versus the supernatural (Odysseus and his men versus the sun god). Below is the warning Odysseus gave his men about the cattle: 

Old shipmates, our stores are in the ship's hold, food and drink; the cattle here are not for our provision, or we pay dearly for it. Fierce the god is who cherishes these heifers and these sheep; Helios; and no man avoids his eye.

When the men can no longer find anything to eat, either in their stores or in the sea, they slaughter the sacred cattle. Odysseus reacts with a strong rebuke: 

Well when I reached the sea cave and the ship, I faced each man and had it out; but where could any remedy be found? There was none. The silken beeves of Helios were dead.

Odysseus is spared from the wrath of the gods since he did not participate in slaughtering or eating the cows. The resolution to the conflict is that Odysseus is spared, but many men die in a storm at sea as a punishment for eating the cattle. 

In "The Land of the Dead," one conflict (man versus the supernatural) is that Odysseus must descend into Hades and confront the apparitions of the underworld. He has to meet with the blind prophet known as Tiresias in order to make it back home to Ithaca. 

Another conflict in "The Land of the Dead" is that Odysseus sees Elpenor, one of his men that he left dead. This grieves him deeply and creates an internal conflict in him. 

One shade came first—Elpenor of our company who lay unburied still on the wide earth as we had left him—dead in Circe's hall, untouched, unmourned when other causes compelled us. Now when I saw him, I wept for pity and called out to him.

The resolution to this is that Odysseus is given many instructions by Tiresias about struggles he will encounter on the way home as well as how to confront the suitors once he gets there. 


missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Cattle of the Sun God"

CONFLICT: Odysseus men ate the Sun God's cattle because they were hungry. Thus, they pitted themselves in a conflict with Lord Helios in a man vs. god conflict.

RESOLUTION: As soon as they were out to sea for a while, he ensured a storm broke them up completely and drowned them all except for Odysseus who did not eat his cattle. Odysseus survives and goes to live with Calypso on Ogygia.

"The Land of the Dead"

CONFLICT: Odysseus cannot go home unless he consults Tiresias the blind prophet. He is in turmoil with the gods and it will not solve itself unless he learns that which he must do. When in the Land of the Men of Winter, he discovers that both his mother and his soldier Elpenor died without his knowledge. Thus, he has an inner conflict about not having been there for either incident.

RESOLUTION: Tiresias gives Odysseus tasks he can do when he arrives back in Ithaca. One of the demands Tiresias places on him is to kill all the men who have been feasting on his livestock and courting his wife. The other great demand is to go far inland to erect a monument for Poseidon.

Read the study guide:
The Odyssey

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