Calypso, The Sweet Nymph


Plot Summary

Trapped on Calypso's island, Odysseus yearns to escape and make his way home to Ithaca. Our first glimpse of the hero fins him weeping, scanning the horizon of the sea. At Athena's behest, Zeus sends Hermes to order the goddess to release Odysseus. Calypso reluctantly agrees to let him go, but not before tempting him one last time, this time with the promise of immortality. Odysseus builds a raft and sets sail, but Poseidon raises a storm and wrecks the raft. Odysseus lands on the island of Scheria and falls asleep in a pile of leaves.


Plot Analysis

The story of Odysseus and Calypso reveals to the reader one kind of challenge faced by Odysseus as he tries to find his way home - temptation. Calypso, a goddess, imprisons the Greek hero on her island paradise complete with all manner of sensory enjoyments: beautiful sights, sounds, tastes, smells and, of course, the sensual enjoyment of being with a goddess. Even Hermes, when he comes with Zeus' message ordering Calypso to release Odysseus, finds her island highly desirable, "Even a god who found this place would gaze, and feel his heart beat with delight..." As Zeus' message is delivered, and Calypso accedes to the chief god's request, she tries one more time to lure Odysseus, this time with the promise of immortality. He shrewdly turns her request down, acknowledging her surpassing beauty, but also that his heart belongs to another - Penelope, and longs to be with her. Odysseus' inner strength, propelled by his great desire for home, Ithaca, teaches that temptation is withstood when the individual has a guiding purpose (home) and principle (devotion) as an anchor for the soul.


Odysseus - Struggles against temptation, melancholy, guilt. Uses his cleverness when given the opportunity to leave by not offending Calypso.

Calypso - A beautiful goddess whose powers to allure and seduce keep Odysseus her prisoner for 7 years. She is eventually forced to relinquish her hold on Odysseus by Zeus (at Athena's request).

Hermes - The messenger of the gods, he delivers Zeus' ultimatum to Calypso. He is captivated by the enchanting beauty of Calypso's island, thus demonstrating Calypso's powers to enthrall.


Greek Culture

Xenia - Calypso violates xenia by abusing her guest, Odysseus. Even though she provides him with food and a place to stay, she holds him captive against his will.