Something I always find very affecting about the Odysseus story is that homecoming isn’t great. He spends all these years trying to get home, but in the end, it’s tragic anyway.
I think that speaks to the idea that you can spend all your life trying to achieve this one thing, and you think when you have it, you’ll be happy. But then the person you became to achieve it means you’re a person who can no longer be happy with it. You become so good at striving that even once you have achieved your goal, you can’t stop striving — and you just become more and more dissatisfied.
That bit of tragedy has always struck me as deeply wise.
Absolutely. Odysseus comes home, and I think he experiences both this sort of rush of being home but also alienation and dislocation. I always think about how sad it is that he misses his son’s entire childhood and young adulthood. When he leaves, his son is an infant and when he comes back, his son is 21. He’s missed out on all those years of his marriage. His mother has died while he was away. His father has gotten quite old and infirm.
So now, you’re back with the people you love, but can you connect with them? Odysseus was honored as “best of the Greeks,” the man who was the architect of the fall of Troy, who was honored and treated as this almost God on Earth. Then he was thrown from that into these years of suffering and then brought home again to a place completely different than the one he left. So I think it makes sense to me why he kind of loses it at the end.
Monday, April 27, 2020
Madeline Miller interview at Vox
Compare and contrast the lesson they emphasize from The Odyssey: