What does The Odyssey say about the necessity of opposition for human growth? Please include examples. 

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Odyssey, as is the case with most oral-traditional works, is highly agonistic, a story of conflicts that tend to be portrayed as purely oppositional, with one party winning and the other party losing. Conflict is seen simply as the human condition. 

The characters of an epic tend to be static rather than dynamic and The Odyssey is more of an action-adventure story than a psychological narrative. Odysseus himself changes little over the course of the poem; he begins as a clever, arrogant, slightly unscrupulous warrior, and retains that character throughout. The character who does develop is his son, the young Telemachus; one might be able to also make a case for Penelope showing her strength in adversity as well.

Although we do not know much directly about Penelope before the Trojan war, we can assume she would have been a typical upper class Greek woman, living a very sheltered life, not educated, and married off at the age of 12 to 14 to an older man. When left on her own with a young son, she devises a clever stratagem of weaving by day and unweaving by night to preserve Ithaca for Odysseus' return. Thus adversity has made her grow stronger.

Telemachus is an uncertain and rather diffident young man when he sets out on his quest to discover what happened to his father. As he completes his long and arduous journey, he develops more self-confidence and physical strength. In the scene where the suitors are challenged to string Odysseus' bow, Telemachus nearly succeeds, and is only prevented from doing so by Odysseus' stopping him. Evidence that the challenges he endured were devised to strengthen him by Athena can be seen in the following lines:

[Athena] gave no all-out turning of the tide, not yet, she kept on testing Odysseus and his gallant son, putting their force and fighting heart to proof.

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The Odyssey

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