The Odyssey

One of the most famous works from the early Greek era is Homer?s The Odyssey. It details the journey home of a war hero, Odysseus. His homecoming entails many adventures, many of them carrying reflective themes. The Sirens are one episode that he must overcome. This episode contains many prevalent themes that are repeated throughout the work. Though the varied episodes differ in terms of characters and settings, most are based on similar patterns of plot and theme. The themes that are most emphasized are forgetfulness, a willingness to risk pain for pleasure, and female temptation. When comparing the Sirens episode with much of Odysseus? other adventures, one can observe an emergence and repetition of these themes. The most obvious comparison that can be drawn between the Sirens episode and most other adventures is the theme of forgetfulness. The same idea is repeated in Odysseus? adventures with Calypso, Circe, and most importantly the Lotus-eaters. The Sirens are all knowing, and draw men in with their songs about all that has happened in the world, but all those who stop to listen can never leave. Fortunately, the Sirens are unable to draw Odysseus in because he has been forewarned by Circe and knows how to resist. "but melt wax of honey and with it stop your companions? ears, so none can listen." (12.47-48) Once he hears their song, he forgets about his homeland and wants to be set free so that he can listen to their song. "fastened me with even more lashings and squeezed me tighter." (12.196) Without Circe?s warning, he would have been drawn into the song and perished. The food of the Lotus-eaters, like the song of the Sirens, causes those who eat it to forget everything they know. Those who ate the fruit had to be bound to the ship, like Odysseus must be tied to the mast in order to bypass the Sirens. "took these men back weeping, by force?put them aboard?tied them there fast" (9.98-99) There are not only thematic similarities but also plot repetitions between the Sirens and Lotus-eaters episodes. Yet, one main difference is evident. Here Odysseus does not receive advice from anyone, rather he passes the challenge through wit and luck. Though Odysseus managed to avoid being tied into the web of the Sirens and the Lotus-eaters, he loses much time with both Calypso and Circe. Circe also draws men in with her songs, but it is her herbs, not the voice, that causes forgetfulness and turns them into beasts. "Singing with a sweet voice?into the mixture malignant drugs, to make them forgetful of their own country." (10.221, 235-236) Once again it is advice, this time from Hermes, that allows Odysseus to save his men. "I will tell you all the malevolent guiles of Circe" (10.289) The recurrence of helpful stranger, like Circe with the Sirens, is a common plot theme throughout the Odyssey. Though he manages to avoid becoming swine, still he succumbs to Circe?s charms and resides on the island for a year. It is only the reminders of his men that bring to his mind the homecoming. "It is time to think about our own country." (10.472) Circe is the only one who manages to draw Odysseus away from his homeland, though in the end, he does leave. When concentrating on the theme of forgetfulness, one notices much similarities, both thematic and plot, between the Sirens episode and others. Though the preoccupation of the Siren scene leans to forgetfulness, another thematic point can be explored, that of Odysseus? willingness to endure unneeded pain for pleasure. The song of the Sirens is extremely beautiful and satisfies Odysseus? thirst for knowledge. Unfortunately, that fleeting moment wherein he can listen to their songs also makes him endure much pain. "they sang in sweet utterance, and the heart within me desired to listen." (12. 192-193) Not only does his thirst go unsated, for he cannot listen to all they know, but also has to deal with being physically unable to follow his instincts. He begs his men to let him go yet knows that they will not. "I signaled my companions to set me free?fastened me with even more lashings and squeezed me tighter." (12.193-196) Odysseus chooses this pain, for to him the pleasure of hearing the sirens is worth the pain of having their song snatched from him. A similar choice is made