The Odyssey can be powerful, yet boring and dark. When I was reading, there would be times when I would feel so engrossed in the book that I could see crystal clear pictures in my mind and form amazing bonds with the characters. In Book eleven, however, I found myself thinking about basketball, rather than focusing on the “supposedly” fantastic adventure where the characters endeavor into the underworld. It’s odd, Book ten kept me on the edge of my seat, wanting more, while book eleven caused me to think about my upcoming basketball game and how many points I could score. Unfortunately, getting confused and distracted became a recurring theme in the next couple of books, and my cousin’s 13 word phrase became rather poetic to me as I continuously heard, “The Odyssey is extremely challenging and writing a paper about it is horrible.” Looking back, it is clear to me that I was allowing myself to adopt this phrase as my permanent attitude towards the Odyssey. If it had not been for my brother, who altered my way of thinking by sharing with me some of the most interesting themes of the Odyssey, I may have never received the emotional awakening that I needed.
One theme woven throughout The Odyssey that spoke to me was the idea of the value of loyalty. Time and again within the adventure, loyalty proved to make the difference. From Penelope waiting 20 years for Odysseus to return, to the crew of Odysseus’s ship standing by his side through goods times and bad, to the loyal swineherd fighting beside Odysseus against the suitors, I was struck by the courage people mustered in the name of loyalty. Even the goddess Athena proved her loyalty to Odysseus when she stood up to Poseidon and her father Zeus. What I learned from the Odyssey is that life is about relationships and without loyalty, relationships become meaningless.
The truth is, I may have never discovered the hidden themes that the Odyssey has to offer if I had not decided to change my attitude about what a difficult and boring book it was going to be. I needed to find a way to be willing to connect with the author in the story, even though the beginning was overwhelming it was important for me to find a way to value the story, rather than seeing it as a chore. To me, that is the true lesson that I have learned from reading the Odyssey.
Books that have a lot of depth and meaning may be difficult to get into at first, but in the end, the payback for your effort is always worth it. Thinking about going to high school next year and the kinds of literature I will be required to read, the lesson of connecting with the text, no matter the challenges, will always be worth the effort. I can honestly say, for me, reading the Odyssey was worth every last word.