The Odyssey in Comparison With “My Father on His Shield”

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Often in literature, writers unintentionally create works that tie very well with one another. Two works that connect well are The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fizgerald, and “My Father on His Shield,” by Walt McDonald. While McDonald’s poem underscores the tone of mourning and sorrow by the main character, Homer’s work elucidates the tone of animosity and hurt.

As previously stated, the tone of McDonald’s poem, “My Father on His Shield” is one of mourning and grief.

The speaker of the poem is grieving his father who he lost to battle and experiences struggles in coping with it all. McDonald’s details about the sled mentioned in the poem reflect the closeness that was once there between the speaker and his father, in addition to the level of importance the speaker’s father had in his life. The use of diction by McDonald also emphasizes the speaker’s mourning, often accompanied by nostalgia, by implicating the repetition of the words “I remember” throughout the poem.

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This constant remembrance expresses the speaker’s difficulty coming to terms with his father’s death. In contrast with McDonald’s poem, Homer’s work, The Odyssey, exhibits a tone filled more with animosity and heartache rather than the previous, more somber and mournful feel. The main character, thus far, is named Telemakhos. The character’s father has been gone for many years without returning or sending any messages, causing the boy and his mother to wonder whether he has died, or if he is gone because he does not wish to return.

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By the use of detail, readers are able to find out that as a result of his father’s extended absence, a number of suitors have begun to take free reign over their home and all of their property, seeking to marry the possible widow. Homer uses diction in order to indicate the Telemoakhos’ animosity towards his father:

Friend, let me put it in the plainest way. My mother says I am his son; I know notsurely.Who has known his own engendering? I wish at least I had some happy man as afather,growing old in his own house – unknown death and silence are the fate of him that, sinceyou ask, they call my father. (Homer 8) Telemakhos is saying that although his mother and everyone say Odysseus is his father, he does not feel that way because he lacks any memory of him. He wishes he could have his father in his life, and is bothered by the fact he hasn’t the slightest bit of knowledge in regards to the whereabouts of his father.

Telemakhos and the speaker in the poem by McDonald share similar experiences. They both are dealing with the absence of their fathers who both partook in the military. However, the speaker in the poem actually knows for a fact his father has died, which may be why he copes with the lack of a father better than Telemakhos, solely because he does not need to question whether or not his father isn’t in his life due to sheer carelessness. Because Telemakhos hasn’t the faintest idea of his father’s whereabouts, he is in search for closure, not only for himself, but for his mother and property being destroyed by the savage suitors. Their circumstances are what control the tone in their dialog, allowing the reader to feel the same things the speakers are feeling.

My Father's Song Vs. The Odyssey

"My Father's Song" and "The Odyssey" have a major theme in common which can be seen on two different levels. The common theme of the two poems is the "Father, Son" theme. The author, Simon Ortiz, from whose point of view we read "My Father's Song", can be compared as either Telemachus or Odysseus in "The Odyssey". In either case, the relationship is that something is being passed down. Ortiz can be seen as two people, as a son, and as a father. Obviously, when he is a son, he is compared to Telemachus, and when he is a father, he is compared to Odysseus. Ortiz, along with Telemachus, miss their father.

For Ortiz, his father is dead, and for Telemachus, his father is lost at sea. They both miss the emotional bond and psychological support that their father would provide for them. For Ortiz, it is his father's songs, and for Telemachus, it is his father's guidance and influence. Both of them, as sons, want something passed down to them. When Ortiz is compared with Odysseus they are both seen as fathers. Both wanting to pass something down to their children. Ortiz wants to pass along the song his father sang him to his own son, but for some reason the child does not want to hear it, or maybe Ortiz does not even have a son to pass it down to.

Odysseus has guidance and wisdom he would like to pass on to his son, except he has not seen him in twenty years because he is being safeguarded on an island. In all cases, both as fathers and sons, tradition is being lost. The two poems "My Father's Song" and "The Odyssey" have another similarity in "My Father's Song", Ortiz wrote a song that his father told him about Ortiz's Father and Grand-Father. This Song is supposed to be passed on from generation to generation.

"The Odyssey" is very similar because it was made up in about 700 A. D. nd then the only way it continued to be alive was by bards singing the different books. It was also a story that was passed on from generation to generation. In "My Fathers Song" the tradition of the song being passed down has been delayed because Ortiz either does not have a son, or his son does not want anything to do with the traditions. "The Odyssey" however is still being passed on today after so many years. In both poems the tradition of Father and Son relationships and the tradition of passing on rituals from generation to generation are major factors.

In conclusion, the two poems "My Father's Song" and "The Odyssey" revolve around a central theme of tradition. Tradition plays a large part in "My Father's Song" because tradition is how Ortiz was able to first learn the song that had been passed down. Also, since it is a tradition to pass on the song, Ortiz must now pass the song onto his son. "The Odyssey" also has many traditions. If it did not, there is no way the epic poem would have still been around up until now. Both poems speak of an extremely important part of our society, tradition. Without it, we would not be able to connect our present place with our history.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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The Odyssey in Comparison With “My Father on His Shield”. (2017, Jan 25). Retrieved from

The Odyssey in Comparison With “My Father on His Shield” essay
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