Essay Example on Portraying Culture in Literature: Examining Homer's 'The Odyssey'

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1232 Words
Date:  2023-03-13

Culture is a significant theme presented in many literature materials in the past and currently, too. The theme is often depicted by the characters depicted, and readers get an opportunity to learn more about such communities. For instance, Homer's epic The Odyssey represents the Greek mythology and culture through its characters in different ways. Odysseus, the protagonist, is a significant example of a person who portrayed and represented the Greek, their customs, and ways of life. Similarly, the play Beowulf took place in Denmark and Sweden in the 6th century. The actions of the characters, especially Beowulf, the protagonist, represent the norms and values of that country and the local culture during that period. The primary goal of this essay is to describe Odysseus and Beowulf and through them, describe the cultures they represent.

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In the novel The Odyssey, Odysseus is depicted as a hero. Through him, various Ancient Greek cultural values are represented since the play is based in that country. Physical strength is one of the cultural values that was highly required in ancient Greek society, and it was equally essential as the well-being of the mind (Van der Horst, 2019). The Greeks believed that a strong physical body translated to a sober mind. The ideology of physical fitness was a significant element in Greek civilization (Van der Horst, 2019). Gymnastics was the primary physical activity that was exercised and taught to all young boys. The countries that value physical fitness in Greece the most were Athens and Sparta. In The Odyssey, there are several instances where the protagonist depicts his physical strength. First, Odysseus steered a boat by himself while he was passing through raging waters in the sea (Louden, 2011). When his colleagues were exhausted at the bottom of the ship, he was the last one to hold on until the time came when he could escape. In another instance, Odysseus strung his bow, which was very large and required a lot of physical strength to operate. Homer describes the character as a powerful man and with the strength and expertise of a hero who did things effortlessly. Another cultural value of the ancient Greek represented by Odysseus is hospitality (Van der Horst, 2019). However, the character is a host and guest, but his experience depicts the hospitality culture and its importance. The first example is in the instance where the Phaeacians host Odysseus upon arriving at the shore. In the sixth book of the novel, Odysseus and Princess Nausicca meet, and the latter offers the stranger food, thereby taking the risk of being rumored about. She also assists the protagonist in getting to Scheria. The Princess' parents are also depicted as hospitable people after providing him with food, entertainment, and a place to sleep. Thirdly, Odysseus was a brave man and a warrior. Courage and boldness were some of the significant qualities required in men in Greek philosophy and culture (Van der Horst, 2019). Odysseus is a good representation of the philosophy as he is depicted as a brave man throughout Homer's epic. One of the ways in which the protagonist shows bravery is when he descends to meet Tiresias in the underworld. In another instance, the man blinds Cyclops Polyphemus to save his men from being killed (Louden, 2011). Due to his bravery traits, Odysseus is described as a man having god-like qualities. The man is a perfect representation of the bravery culture that was highly valued in ancient Greece.

Beowulf, through his character, significantly represents the Anglo-Saxon culture in various ways. First, bravery was a mandatory value in the Anglo-Saxon culture at that time, whether when engaging in battle or fighting a monster. Courage was considered as one of the most significant heroic deeds in that culture, and brave men were honored and respected throughout the land (Carter, 2019). For one to become a warrior, they had to prove that they had the bravery to face all tough situations. Beowulf is the main character in the play Beowulf. The protagonist is considered a brave man when he saves people from the beast Grendel and his mother the ogress (Heaney, 2009). He also fights a fire-breathing dragon. The novel depicts him as an able and strongest warrior and hero, and the people's savior based on his actions of bravery. Secondly, the heroic code was an important value in the Anglo-Saxon culture during the ancient period in English History. The epic reveals Beowulf as a respected warrior and king and his band of thanes who were supposed to offer protection to their leader even if it would cost them their lives. In return, the king had to be generous to his followers and ensure their safety. The epic describes Beowulf as a true leader and a great Anglo-Saxon hero. Even in his old age, Beowulf becomes a respected and selfless king who, in the end, commits suicide to save his people from death (Heaney, 2009). The Anglo-Saxon culture also significantly valued truth though they were known to be extremely boastful people. Although the protagonist boasts in some instances, the information had to be based on the truth. For example, in one instance, Beowulf brags of a swimming match he had during his childhood years with his friend Breca (Heaney, 2009). According to the culture, all the warriors were expected to boast only when there was valor (Carter, 2019). Any person in the military who lied would be disgraced. An example is given in the poem when Unferth, a Danish warrior, challenges the credibility of Beowulf's swimming match and ends up being disgraced. The Anglo-Saxon culture also valued loyalty, both in the king and warriors (Carter, 2019). People were supposed to respect the king. Beowulf is depicted as a loyal man in the poem. One of the instances when the protagonist shows his loyalty is how he seeks permission from the king to help Danish in killing Grendel, the monster (Heaney, 2009). Finally, the Anglo-Saxon culture also dictated that honor must be given to the deserving parties, especially the king (Carter, 2019). Honor was an important value in Beowulf's life, and he showed it to his king in abundance.


In conclusion, the protagonists of the two epics, The Odyssey and Beowulf, represent their cultures through their actions and roles in the literature materials. The Odyssey was an epic whose setting was in ancient Greece, and Odysseus' actions reveal what was valued in that culture. For instance, physical strength is one of the most significant requirements that the Greece culture required of a warrior. Odysseus is described as a strong and mighty man and who showed his physical ability in various ways. For example, he steered a boat by himself while he was passing through raging waters in the sea. Bravery and hospitality are also some of the values highly recognized in ancient Greek culture. In the other epic Beowulf, the poem was set in Anglo-Saxon culture, and the protagonist's actions reveal much about it. The Anglo-Saxon culture significantly valued bravely, a heroic code, truth, and loyalty from the soldiers. Beowulf is described as a hero and a brave and respected warrior when he attacks and defeats Grendel, the monster, his mother, the ogress, and the fire-breathing dragon.


Carter, I. (2019). Ancient cultures of conceit: British university fiction in the post-war years. Routledge.

Heaney, S. (2009). Beowulf. Faber & Faber.

Louden, B. (2011). Homer's Odyssey and the Near East. Cambridge University Press.

Van der Horst, P. W. (2019). The Ancient Samaritans and Greek Culture. Religions, 10(4), 290.

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Essay Example on Portraying Culture in Literature: Examining Homer's 'The Odyssey'. (2023, Mar 13). Retrieved from

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