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Online Comics => Odysseus The Rebel => Topic started by: Rocketman on November 25, 2008, 05:53:37 am

Title: Cheap shot
Post by: Rocketman on November 25, 2008, 05:53:37 am
I'm starting to like Odysseus as a individual less and less.   First the episode with his mother and then poor Achilles.  All the guy did was ask if he had been remembered for his deeds while alive.  How hard would it have been for Odysseus to say a little white lie and say "Yes, you were" ?   It appears to me that he has no compassion or honor.  Maybe that's part of the point of this story but it sure doesn't make for a very sympathetic character.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Corydon on November 25, 2008, 09:26:46 am
The thing is, here's a case where Homer's version of the story gets the same point across better, and in a way that's more sympathetic to both Odysseus and Achilles.

There, Odysseus asks Achilles, hey, you're the greatest warrior of all time!  It must be pretty sweet to be down here and be remembered for your heroic deeds, right?  And Achilles responds that, no, it sucks.  I'd rather be a hired hand for the lowliest dirt farmer in the most godforsaken corner of  Lower Eyesocket, WV than the jack, queen, king and ace of all the dead.

In Homer, Odysseus learns something: he realizes that the promises of immortality offered by the heroic code are bunk (and implicitly, that the hero of the Odyssey is greater than the hero of the Iliad).  And it strengthens his resolve to get back to Ithaca so he can enjoy his human life with Penelope.  It's an episode, in other words, that would fit neatly with the message of OTR.

So the problem here, IMO, isn't that Odysseus is a jerk-- you can have unsympathetic characters who are worth reading about-- but that he's boring.  There's no sign that he's learning anything, changing at all, or that he's anything other than a single-minded hyper-competent Randian rugged individualist type.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Rocketman on November 25, 2008, 06:57:42 pm

So the problem here, IMO, isn't that Odysseus is a jerk-- you can have unsympathetic characters who are worth reading about-- but that he's boring.  There's no sign that he's learning anything, changing at all, or that he's anything other than a single-minded hyper-competent Randian rugged individualist type.
  I think I see where your coming from, but their has to be more to a life than "a single-minded hyper-competent Randian rugged individualist type." as you described.  Where's the joy, the sorrow, the anger, the humility?  He looked right at the people that he knew, including his own mother, realizing that they were in hell and it looked to me that he felt nothing.  People IMHO who feel the way that he does usually end up as serial killers.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: wdg3rd on November 26, 2008, 06:14:12 am

  I think I see where your coming from, but their has to be more to a life than "a single-minded hyper-competent Randian rugged individualist type." as you described.  Where's the joy, the sorrow, the anger, the humility?  He looked right at the people that he knew, including his own mother, realizing that they were in hell and it looked to me that he felt nothing.  People IMHO who feel the way that he does usually end up as serial killers.


I can't really think of a notable male character in the Illiad (aside from the reportedly blind narrator) who wasn't a serial killer.  (The females mostly just did one-offs).

The term you might need is "sociopath".  The psychological equivalent to philosphy's "solipsism".  Other people aren't real, so it doesn't matter what happens to them even if you do it.  That reminds me to put "serial killing" into my schedule, even though my calendar is already pretty full, and I no longer hang out at the sort of bars where serial killers usually pick up victims.  (I'm not a social drinker, I buy my beer at a store, take it home and drink it there, it's a lot cheaper that way).
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Rocketman on November 26, 2008, 12:04:15 pm

  I think I see where your coming from, but their has to be more to a life than "a single-minded hyper-competent Randian rugged individualist type." as you described.  Where's the joy, the sorrow, the anger, the humility?  He looked right at the people that he knew, including his own mother, realizing that they were in hell and it looked to me that he felt nothing.  People IMHO who feel the way that he does usually end up as serial killers.


I can't really think of a notable male character in the Illiad (aside from the reportedly blind narrator) who wasn't a serial killer.  (The females mostly just did one-offs).

The term you might need is "sociopath".  The psychological equivalent to philosphy's "solipsism".  Other people aren't real, so it doesn't matter what happens to them even if you do it.  That reminds me to put "serial killing" into my schedule, even though my calendar is already pretty full, and I no longer hang out at the sort of bars where serial killers usually pick up victims.  (I'm not a social drinker, I buy my beer at a store, take it home and drink it there, it's a lot cheaper that way).

I think that your right, a more precise definition probably would be "Sociopath".  I never spent much time in my youth as a reader of the Greek classics but it that's how their heads were wired then it's no suprise to me that they grew up so weird.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Scott on November 27, 2008, 01:13:23 am
Quote
He looked right at the people that he knew, including his own mother, realizing that they were in hell and it looked to me that he felt nothing.

In Greek mythology, everyone who dies ends up in Hell, the virtuous and the malevolent, the wise and the foolish, the brave and the cowardly. It was the closest thing to egalitarianism in their worldview. So there would be no reason for Odysseus to be saddened to see his mother or "friends" there.

(Agamemnon and the other kings were not really his friends. They were allies in war, but they had also compelled him to leave his home and young family to go fight that war.)
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Rocketman on November 27, 2008, 04:43:33 am
Scott:  Maybe I'm wrong about this but what about Elysian Fields?  That may not be spelled right.  Or am I messing up my Greek and Roman ideas of heaven?  If your right about everythihg then I'm not surprised that everyone in Greek mythology was screwed up.  Think about it.  They're telling you that you will automatically go to hell in the afterlife no matter what you do, which gives you no incentive at all to do good.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Sean Roach on November 27, 2008, 09:21:16 am
Wasn't it Hades?  Not Hell?  I thought Hel was Nordic.  I only mention this because we automatically associate the word Hell with a place of punishment or suffering, and although the dead seem to suffer, they don't appear to be there out of punishment.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: wdg3rd on November 27, 2008, 09:37:52 am
Scott:  Maybe I'm wrong about this but what about Elysian Fields?  That may not be spelled right.  Or am I messing up my Greek and Roman ideas of heaven?  If your right about everythihg then I'm not surprised that everyone in Greek mythology was screwed up.  Think about it.  They're telling you that you will automatically go to hell in the afterlife no matter what you do, which gives you no incentive at all to do good.

Elysium was the posh side of Hell.  You didn't suffer there (aside from the simple fact that you were still dead).  It's the First Circle in Dante's Inferno, where the virtuous pagans hang out.

There was no after-death heaven in greek (or for that matter jewish or roman) mythology.  (Sheol means "grave", it's where you go after you die).  Olympus belonged only to the gods and selected demi-gods (none of whom I would willingly let eat at my table, except perhaps Our Lady of Discord, and that's just for hot dogs on Fridays).  (If you haven't read the Principia Discordia (http://www.principia.com), I highly recommend it, it will help with a lot of anarchist in-jokes, and follow up reading Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! at first convenience).  (There was a B&N hardcover of the trilogy a few years back on the remainder shelves, but it's best to track down the Dell originals, since the B&N book didn't have the (to my mind essential) recaps of the first two volumes before those after -- Bob Wilson told me about a third of the total text was cut before Dell published it, and those recaps were the only remnants -- I'd love to see the original manuscripts).

I really do recommend The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett.  
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Corydon on November 27, 2008, 12:10:44 pm
I wouldn't call Homeric heroes serial killers, much less sociopaths.  They're not psychotic; they're warriors.  And while they come from a society that couldn't be more different than ours (and in which I wouldn't want to live), they aren't anti-social, any more than a modern soldier is.  For that matter, read the end of the Iliad, where Priam begs Achilles to return his son's body.  They weep together, Priam thinking of Hector and Achilles thinking of his own father.  It's a moment of shared humanity and recognition of mortality: the very opposite of sociopathy.

As to Hades/hell/Elysian fields: remember, there's no canon for ancient mythology.  Every author has his own take on it.  Vergil (who's coming after a pretty long tradition of describing and elaborating the underworld) makes it a pretty complex place, with a nice area for the blessed, a place of punishment for the wicked, a whole parade of future Roman heroes, and at the end, a promise of reincarnation or rebirth for souls there.  Dante really goes to town on the idea, of course.  But for Homer, things are simpler: the underworld just sucks.  It's not a place of punishment, but it's a place drained of vitality.  The dead are voiceless and practically mindless, it's dark, chilly and basically unpleasant.

I actually like the idea that Agamemnon in OTR suggests, of the underworld as being the outskirts of our own world, and the ancient heroes as ghosts who are at the margins of our perception.  I imagine them as like the homeless: they're there, all around us, but nobody quite notices them.  It strikes me as an oddly Homeric take on death, actually.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Rocketman on December 09, 2008, 10:17:58 pm
Corydon: Your description strikes me as the most likely scene of what Hell truly is.
As to Hades/hell/Elysian fields: remember, there's no canon for ancient mythology.  Every author has his own take on it.  Vergil (who's coming after a pretty long tradition of describing and elaborating the underworld) makes it a pretty complex place, with a nice area for the blessed, a place of punishment for the wicked, a whole parade of future Roman heroes, and at the end, a promise of reincarnation or rebirth for souls there.  Dante really goes to town on the idea, of course.  But for Homer, things are simpler: the underworld just sucks.  It's not a place of punishment, but it's a place drained of vitality.  The dead are voiceless and practically mindless, it's dark, chilly and basically unpleasant.

  I long time ago I theorized that "Hell" is actually of your own making.  If energy can't be destroyed then when you die what's left in your consicious is memories of past events in your life.  Helping your mother bake cookies, your wedding day, the birth of your child and so on.  Those are the memories that you carry with you into the afterlife throughout eternity, like an actor on a stage with a set of never changing props.  The memories comfort you like a warm blanket,  But think about what happens if you don't have those kinds of memories?  Only fighting, violence and so on?  Then where you choose to spend eternity will be a cold, barren and lonely place.  And it's entirely of your own making, no one else's because that's the life that you choose to live.  Not very comforting for some people who think that all that they have to do to be forgiven by God is to confess their sins on their deathbed is it?
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: John DeWitt on December 10, 2008, 07:20:10 am
Well, but it's true what Rocketman says.  If Odysseus is going to have a character arc, he'd better get to it.  He's hostile to the gods and Agamemnon - fine, got it.  I would be, too.  But he's also at best indifferent to his men, his dead allies, and his own mother.  He's an all-around dick, and doesn't seem to be learning from his experiences at all.  The way he is now, who in Ithaka (sp?) would want him back?
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Rocketman on December 10, 2008, 11:35:43 am
John:  It's spelled Ithaca.  Like the city in the state of New York or the shotgun manufacturer.  About the only thing that I find appealing about Odysseus is that he doesn't take any nonsense from the Gods and he's trying to get back to his wife and son.  Otherwise IMHO he's not a particularly likable character.  Of course the story isn't over yet.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Corydon on December 10, 2008, 02:06:44 pm
"Ithaca" and "Ithaka" are both legitimate.  Since the English "k" and hard "c" are pronounced the same, the pronunciations are equivalent, so the issue is just whether you want your transliteration to be more Latinate or more Greek.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Lun-Sei on December 12, 2008, 10:43:40 am
Well, but it's true what Rocketman says.  If Odysseus is going to have a character arc, he'd better get to it.  He's hostile to the gods and Agamemnon - fine, got it.  I would be, too.  But he's also at best indifferent to his men, his dead allies, and his own mother.  He's an all-around dick, and doesn't seem to be learning from his experiences at all.  The way he is now, who in Ithaka (sp?) would want him back?



Not that the other greek heroes are any different. Characters from ancient greek mythology are pretty much always all-around dicks. Odysseus isn't particularly nasty or heartless; he just fills in the canon type of characters for those legends.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Corydon on December 13, 2008, 08:21:14 pm
Thing is, there is no canon for ancient mythology.  There are just different (and often contradictory) versions of myths.  In some of those versions, mythical figures come off smelling like roses; in other versions, they smell like... well, less good.

Take Odysseus: in Homer, he's ruthless, killing sleeping enemies, hanging the faithless servant women in his palace, etc.  But he only goes out of his way to mock one person: Polyphemus.  And he pays a pretty heavy price for that: so when he's back on Ithaca, he's learned not to insult the suitors, even as he kills them.  (After all, he'll have to live with their families afterwards.)

In tragedy, Odysseus is a mixed bag.  To take two examples, in Sophocles' Philoctetes, he's a scheming, amoral politician who's willing to sacrifice others to achieve his goal.  But in Sophocles' Ajax, he's a sympathetic character, who's able to recognize others' humanity and suffering.  And in Euripides' Cyclops, he's a classic straight man to the buffoonish satyrs.

And one more example, the Aeneid.  There he's cruel and heartless... but that's a story told from the perspective of a Trojan!  Even though Aeneas hates Odysseus, it's clear Vergil doesn't; he loves Homer, and he loves his creation.

tl;dr- there's no "real" Odysseus to appeal to.  Each author uses the character to fit his own agenda.  That's what makes myth cool.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Scott on December 13, 2008, 10:21:26 pm
Exactly! And so it is with Steven Grant and his re-telling of the tale.

There is an underlying theme to this story which takes a while to become clear. We get the first hint of it with Telemachus' conversation with the un-named Phoenician sailor.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: SDGrant on May 11, 2009, 08:06:58 pm
I can't really think of a notable male character in the Illiad (aside from the reportedly blind narrator) who wasn't a serial killer.  (The females mostly just did one-offs).

Hector.  Hector is the epitome of virtue, as warrior, as father, as husband, as son.

The Greeks, though, they're all thugs and sociopaths.  Which makes me wonder why it was such a popular story among the Greeks.

- Grant
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: wdg3rd on May 12, 2009, 02:02:45 am
I can't really think of a notable male character in the Illiad (aside from the reportedly blind narrator) who wasn't a serial killer.  (The females mostly just did one-offs).

Hector.  Hector is the epitome of virtue, as warrior, as father, as husband, as son.

The Greeks, though, they're all thugs and sociopaths.  Which makes me wonder why it was such a popular story among the Greeks.

- Grant

Well. the assholes who did the greatest damage to the US Constitution are considered the greatest heroes nowadays.  Washington, Lincoln, Wilson, FDR.  The book hasn't been written on those of the last half and some century, but Bush II couldn't have committed the atrocities he did without those shining examples.

It's been over two decades since I read the translated originals allegedly by Homer.  Nor am I likely to bother anytime soon, except excerpts.  If I'm going to reread, I prefer something interesting.  Something that won or was in the running for a Prometheus award or Prometheus hall-of-fame or at least by an author that got one there.  I'm enjoying the current story in large part because I've been rejecting the gods since I was 12 (and I was raised Southron Baptist).
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Corydon on May 16, 2009, 09:00:59 pm
Hector.  Hector is the epitome of virtue, as warrior, as father, as husband, as son.

The Greeks, though, they're all thugs and sociopaths.  Which makes me wonder why it was such a popular story among the Greeks.

It's a gross oversimplification, even a gross misreading, to call all the Greeks "thugs and sociopaths."  A sociopath doesn't care for anybody other than himself.  But we often see Greek heroes keenly feeling their comrades' suffering: look at Patroclus, or Ajax.  And the reader feels the suffering of both sides, even at the death of minor characters.

Look at Achilles, especially in book 9 (the key book of the epic).  He sees that the life to which he has been born and bred is meaningless.  But he can't escape it- he searches for, and fails to find, an alternate system of values (all revolving around kleos, or "honor").  And he almost succeeds, but he can't do it.  That's his tragedy.

Hector's tragedy is that he fails as a son, husband and father.  Look at his conversation with Andromache in book 6.  He knows that Troy will fall, and that his son will be killed and his wife raped and enslaved.  But he also wants to see his son to grow up to be a better man than his father was.  His heroic background creates a cognitive dissonance that he isn't able to escape.  And unlike Achilles, he doesn't even see that there might be a plausible alternative to life as a hero.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: SDGrant on May 17, 2009, 03:27:29 pm
It's a gross oversimplification, even a gross misreading, to call all the Greeks "thugs and sociopaths."  A sociopath doesn't care for anybody other than himself.  But we often see Greek heroes keenly feeling their comrades' suffering: look at Patroclus, or Ajax.  And the reader feels the suffering of both sides, even at the death of minor characters.

Sure, I was grossly oversimplifying.  On the other hand, while technically you're right that a sociopath cares for no one but himself, it's far from unusual for sociopaths to put on a show, frequently an overwrought show, of grief over a lost someone.  While I wasn't especially fond of the show past the first season, THE SOPRANOS did an excellent job of capturing a rarely expressed fact about mobsters: they're ludicrously, but very selectively, sentimental, especially about family.  In fact, on the show they were always going to funerals and waxing on tearfully about terrible losses and wonderful guys, then in the next breath shooting someone or slitting their throats - even people very close to them - without a second thought, and often because it was their duty to "the family."

Quote
Look at Achilles, especially in book 9 (the key book of the epic).  He sees that the life to which he has been born and bred is meaningless.  But he can't escape it- he searches for, and fails to find, an alternate system of values (all revolving around kleos, or "honor").  And he almost succeeds, but he can't do it.  That's his tragedy.

As I recall, Achilles is given the opportunity to escape the whole thing and live an obscure life but chooses to live fast, die young and leave a good looking legend.  He opts for glory.  It's not that he can't escape his fate, he just doesn't.  He wants a life of A, B & C without D, but that can't happen, but he won't abandon A, B & C to jump to E.

Y'know, that might make an interesting parallel story: the story of Achilles were he to have taken the way out and never gone to Troy.

Quote
Hector's tragedy is that he fails as a son, husband and father.

Hector's tragedy is that he makes the same mistake as Achilles, in different fashion.  Both try to have it all, when the components of "all" are inherently contradictory.  Hector fails as husband and father (to protect and preserve his family) because he also desires to succeed as son and champion.  He's trapped into an inherent contradiction he can only escape by abandoning selected roles placed on him, but this would also mean abandoning honor and accepting shame (as with Achilles).  The difference being that Hector's obligation to fight is thrust on him by his role by birth in Trojan society.  Unlike Odysseus, Achilles is under no special compulsion to go off to war, though refusing certainly wouldn't ingratiate him with Agamemnon and Meneleus, but he sees war as a path to glory and fame, to being eternally remembered.  (And given that we're talking about him now, who's to say it was the wrong choice?)

In Irish mythology, this is called a "geis," the duty - the hero's strength is often tied to it - to uphold specific, usually contradictory obligations, and failing to do so will bring shame and divine retribution.  CuChullain, the "Irish Achilles," is the exemplar of ths: he has two geis to follow - he cannot refuse a meal offered and he cannot eat his namesake (the flesh of a dog, "CuChullain" meaning "The Hound Of Chulainn."  On his way to his greatest battle, he passes the campfire of a hermit who offers him a bowl of stew, but the stew's made with dog meat, so he's forced to break one geis or the other, and is crippled as a result.  He still goes to battle with his strength halved, and still manages to single-handedly fight off an enemy army, but dies in the doing.  This is obviously a more extreme and arguably less poetic example than the Achilles story, but it basically says the same thing.  Achilles goes to war because he wants glory, but glory means he dies.  He wants glory, he wants life, and he can't have them both.  But he tries to and fails.

Quote
Look at his conversation with Andromache in book 6.  He knows that Troy will fall, and that his son will be killed and his wife raped and enslaved.  But he also wants to see his son to grow up to be a better man than his father was.  His heroic background creates a cognitive dissonance that he isn't able to escape.  And unlike Achilles, he doesn't even see that there might be a plausible alternative to life as a hero.

I would suggest that as the heir to the Trojan throne (Hector's the oldest son, right?) and as a prince of the realm, he really doesn't have an alternative.  Any move away from the role socially thrust on him is treason.  He can save his family through an act of treason, but that's effectively subjecting them to lives as outcasts, if they're not all put to death anyway.  Like I said, Hector feels the need to fulfill the duties he has taken on, whether entirely of his own choosing or not, and those duties become contradictory.

So would you say Agamemnon's motivation is to avenge the insult to him and his brother, since Agamemnon arranged the marriage of Helen & Meneleus and the theft of Helen is also a challenge to his authority as high king, or is Agamemnon really more interested in the wealth of Troy, with the theft a convenient justification, when he opts for war?

- Grant
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Frank B. on May 18, 2009, 10:42:46 am
Y'know, that might make an interesting parallel story: the story of Achilles were he to have taken the way out and never gone to Troy.

You could title it, "The Last Temptation of Achilles".  ;D
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: SDGrant on May 18, 2009, 06:01:10 pm
You could title it, "The Last Temptation of Achilles".  ;D

Naaaaaaah.  I already did that with Kolchak The Night Stalker once...

- Grant
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Sean Roach on October 25, 2009, 08:27:15 pm
I think it's time to tighten the spam filter and apply CAPCHA's.

This is the second non-sequitor, and I'm wondering if it's a spam test run.

Edit.  Make that the second non-sequitor I'm aware of.

Edit again.  Also the same user.  Two posts, and both were entirely outside the track of the conversation.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Rocketman on October 26, 2009, 11:30:51 am
I noticed the same thing.  I originally thought that he was going to start "flaming" but it didn't happen.  I think it's just best to ignore him or her.   ???
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Scott on October 30, 2009, 01:24:56 pm
I have banned the user ThiftyTuh73 as a likely spammer.
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Rocketman on October 30, 2009, 07:29:34 pm
Here's a question that I'm throwing out for discussion.  What would be the greatest attribute that any hero of the time of Odysseus would want to have more of?  I'm not talking about archery, or sword skills.  Is it compassion, honesty, honor, bravery or something else entirely?   ???
Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Rocketman on February 03, 2010, 10:34:20 am
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Title: Re: Cheap shot
Post by: Frank B. on February 03, 2010, 12:21:44 pm
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And they're gone again.  Damn spammers.