No Man is an Island

As John Donne, the renown English poet once said, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main, if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

Through this insightful quote, it can be learned that no one can be completely autonomous from the rest of society. Every deed, every death, or every mistake of one man alone will affect those around him. This holds true, even in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, where the actions of one man will bring about either the eminence or the dissolution of many.

Even before The Odyssey took place, there were clear examples of how one person can affect a plethora of people. Before the Trojan War, the price of Troy, Paris, had to hand over a golden apple to one of three goddesses, Aphrodite, Athena, and Artemis. Each offered their own reward in turn for the golden apple. The very lustful Paris however, decided to give the apple to Aphrodite, who promised him the most beautiful woman on Earth as his bride. There was only one problem, the most beautiful woman on the face of the planet was Helen of Sparta and she was married to King Menelaus of Sparta, the ruler of one of the most elite factions the world has ever seen. Paris’ greed and lust sparked a massive war between the two cities, with the end result being the futile death of thousands of innocent men.

Throughout The Odyssey, the main protagonist, Odysseus, makes choices that greatly affect not only his life, but the life of all the men serving under his command. In book nine of The Odyssey, “In the One-Eyed Giant’s Cave,” it was only through Odysseus’ decisive action that his crew was able to so boldly blind the monstrous cyclops, Polyphemus, and deter the sudden doom awaiting them, although by revealing himself to Polyphemus, he angered Poseidon, which prompted him to extract his revenge on them, therefore ruining the rest of the voyage to Ithaca. Furthermore, in book ten, “Bewitching of the Queen of Aeaea,” had had Hermes not provided Odysseus with the drug required to made him invulnerable from Circe’s food, he would have never have been able to rescue his men, and they would have all been turned into pathetic swines.

On the return voyage to Ithaca, there was certainly not a lack of danger, which the cunning Odysseus was able to skillfully evade. In book eleven, “The Kingdom of the Dead,” Odysseus prevented his men from getting entrapped from the Siren’s entrancing song by making ear plugs out of wax, therefore completely nullifying the volume of the singing. Also in book eleven, Odysseus had the choice of sailing through either Charybdis or Scylla. Charybdis is a deadly whirlpool that constantly synthesizes and then releases water. Scylla is a deadly six headed monster that snatches three men at random from a passing ship and devours them without mercy. Knowing that sailing through Charybdis meant definite destruction for the entire ship, Odysseus chose to sail through Scylla and only lose six of his crew, thereby minimizing casualties. Had Odysseus not made the decision to sail through Scylla, then he would have been responsible for the death of his entire crew.

Not only has Odysseus’ actions affected the lives of those around him-specifically the mend sailing alongside him, but the actions of others have also affected the crew. For example, in book twelve, “The Sun God’s Cattle,” if Eurylochus didn’t kill Helion’s cattle, Zeus would have never struck their ship with a lightning bolt, and they might have lived, and accompanied Odysseus back to Ithaca, where they would be reunited with their family. Furthermore, it was only through Athena’s guidance that Odysseus was able to kill all of Penelope’s suitors and win back his kingdom, Odysseus alone could not have done it.

In conclusion, every action will create a ripple effect, thereby affecting everyone. In The Odyssey, it has become apparent that the consequences of one man will affect everyone around him. This is a concept that no one can escape.
If only things were different.

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