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The Impact of Karma in The Odyssey by Homer

People have karma when they bring themselves either trouble or good fortune in accordance with the way they act. Loyalty is extremely important in Greek culture; good fortune comes to those who are loyal, while those who are unfaithful or mutinous usually end up getting ruined or killed. In Homer’s epic The Odyssey many people are affected by their actions. A few examples of people that have been affected by this are Clytemnestra, Penelope, all of her suitors, Odysseus, and his maids.

Clytemnestra is a perfect example of a disloyal wife. Her husband, Agamemnon, was away fighting in the Trojan War, and she was feeling lonely, so she got herself a new boyfriend, Aegisthus. They were happily together for years and were getting used to being together. When Agamemnon finally came home, she aided Aegisthus in murdering him. When Agamemnon’s son, Orestes, heard of this, he killed Aegisthus to avenge his father. This clearly shows that one should not commit adultery, for Clytemnestra was from thereafter know as a very unfaithful wife, and never really had any happiness in her life after that. This teaches the lesson of how important loyalty to your spouse is; if you are not a devoted wife or husband it will not result well for you.

Penelope was quite the opposite of Clytemnestra. When her husband, Odysseus went off to fight in the Trojan War, she missed him desperately. Over twenty years passed, and suitors even showed up at her house to try and win her over. However Penelope, being a devoted wife, disregarded all of the suitors and instead kept up hope that Odysseus would eventually come home. Thanks to her tremendous loyalty she was bestowed good fortune by the gods, particularly Athena, and had a wonderful reunion with her husband at long last. This is a very significant point that explains how important loyalty was in Greek culture; instead of showing how disloyal people end up angering the Gods and their lives getting destroyed, it showed how one’s kindness and devotion could turn out well for them in the long run.

Even though Penelope was abstaining from the suitors, they certainly were neither refraining from her, nor her maids. This was both unfaithful to Penelope, because they were supposed to be courting her, and disregardful of Odysseus, for some of them were from Ithaca, and were therefor disrespecting their king, and most of them actually fought in battle side by side with Odysseus. He had saved many of their lives and they treasonably repaid him by trying to steal his wife with the excuse that he might be dead. This rudeness and inability to show respect was shown to the gods and they became angry with the suitors. The Gods who got involved were mainly Athena and Zeus, but it was mostly Athena. Telemachus and Odysseus slaughtered them all for their crimes in their dining hall.

At that, it seems like Odysseus had an easy time after he got everything all squared away with the war, but he did not have such good luck. He was a very loyal crewmember even though he did cause many of their deaths when he was taunting Poseidon’s Cyclops son, which caused Poseidon to hate Odysseus even more than he already did for beating the Trojans in the war, because Polythemus, the Cyclops, prayed that Odysseus would never make it home, or that if he did, all of his crew members would ide. The main focus of his disloyalty was in his unfaithfulness toward Penelope. He may have seemed like the perfect husband, but this was not true at all. While he was away he had slept with Calypso almost every night for seven years and had slept with Circe twice. In addition, he promised marriage to Nausikaa. He was tempting and flirting with the poor young girl with no intentions of following through with it. He led the girl on just so he could get information that he wanted. If everybody had known these things about Odysseus then they would have expected that he had many of the grueling trials that Odysseus had to endure.

While Odysseus was away, he wasn’t the only one being unfaithful. While the suitors were pouring into the house by the dozens, twelve of Odysseus’s maids couldn’t resist the temptation, and gave in to sleeping with them time after time again. After that Odysseus and Telemachus killed all of the suitors, his untrustworthy maids were forced to drag the suitors’ dead bodies outside and clean the gory mess out of the dining hall. Afterward they were to be hacked to pieces, however Telemachus had decided that this was too noble of a death for them so they were all hanged instead. His maids that remained loyal to him, however, were praised for there honesty.

This matter of, “what goes around comes around” is a reoccurring theme and happens many times throughout the book. It is recognized that it has happened in Clytemnestra’s life when she was unfaithful to Agamemnon and suffered greatly for it. The opposite happened to Penelope and she was blessed with good fortune due to the fact she stayed faithful to Odysseus even when she was tempted with over one hundred suitors trying to win her over. Clearly the suitors were also being unfaithful to Penelope and mutinous toward Odysseus, which resulted in them all being massacred by non other than Odysseus himself. Even though Penelope remained true to her marriage, Odysseus had been sleeping with several women while he was away, which resulted in his pain and suffering. Odysseus’s maids were similar to Odysseus when they were sleeping with Penelope’s suitors; they resulted in being put to death for their disloyalty. All of these examples should make one think twice before they act, because the karma might come back to bite them.

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