The Sirens; Scylla and Charybdis

Circe's island

Plot Summary

Odysseus and his crew go back to Circe's island and the witch, Circe, warns Odysseus of the deadly creatures, Sirens, that lurk the waters of his journey ahead. She talks about their enticing song that lures sea men to their deaths and tells Odysseus how he and his men can avoid being lured in to their untimely demise. Circe then informs him of the two deadly creatures he will inevitably encounter, Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla is described as a horrifying monster with twelve tentacle-like legs with three rows of teeth to each of six heads attached to serpent like necks.She is said to take six men from each ship that sails by. Charybdis is a monster who goes unseen but causes much more damage by sucking in water like a whirlpool and spitting it back out like a geyser three times a day. Odysseus's initial plan was to try and sail between them but Circe warns him that it is no good and that he will have to choose between losing only six men or his whole crew. As Odysseus and his men sail past the sharp and dangerous rocks that are the home to the Sirens, they tie Odysseus to the mast of the ship as he wishes to hear the Siren's song and he would not be able to jump ship or put anyone in danger in this position. All his other men have softened beeswax in their ears to prevent them from doing the same. Odysseus chooses to lose the six men and so he sails by Scylla and she takes six of his best shipmates and eats them. Odysseus and the rest of his shipmates live on and sail toward Thrinacia, the island of Helios, the sun god, to rest.

A Compelling Quote

"She ate them as they shrieked there, in her den, in their die=re grapple, reaching still for me--- and deathly pity ran me through at that sight--- far the worst I ever suffered, questing the passes of the strange sea." (The Sirens; Scylla and Charybdis 199-203) What I find compelling about this quote was the mortality portrayed in the men being taken. They had been thinking about how they would be rewarded and praised when they were to return home but instead their lives were cut short and they would not return home. I also found their reaction when they were being taken to reach out for Odysseus to save them as they had trusted him with their lives to get them back home safely and how Odysseus had felt pity for them even though it was his choice to let them die or the whole of the ship's crew. It also shows that although Odysseus may be very prideful, he honestly cared about the people helping and following him back home to Ithica.

Figurative Language

The quote used to describe Scylla's menacing throats, "... deep gullets of black death." (The Sirens; Scylla and Charybdis 50-51) was a particularly vivid use of imagery. It was used well to describe the immense danger posed by the great monster's appetite. The other quote I chose was "But scarcely had that island faded in blue air than I saw smoke and white water..." (The Sirens; Scylla and Charybdis 134-135) because it is a very descriptive metaphor of how the air looks like it is blue, the water vapor on the ocean's surface's smoke-like quality, and the foam that was caused by the violent stirring of the current making the water white.

What is the lesson being taught in this selection?

The lesson of this particular selection is that sometimes you may experience a situation you can't come out of unscathed. You may need to chose between two unfavorable things which is no easy choice to make. Odysseus was faced with the choice of either losing six men or destroying his ship and his entire ship crew dying. He chose the more favorable option of having only six men die but it was still a hard decision for him because he didn't want to lose anyone. Odysseus had originally wanted to kill the monster but that was not an option because if he had tried, he and all his men would have died in a bloody, dead end battle.

How the lesson would be portrayed in modern times.

You might be in the position where your two best friends are mad at each other and they're forcing you to choose between the two of them. You obviously don't want to because you love them both equally. There are many ways for it to pan out, for example, you may think one friend is overreacting and take the side of the one who you think is right, well now the other one is mad at you, bad choice. Or one friend would ask you on Monday to go to the movies next weekend, you say yes, then the other friend asks you on Tuesday to go shopping the same day you're going to the movies, you tell her you can't because you already have plans with the other friend. She then thinks you're ditching her to hang out with the other friend instead of her, also bad. It's the classic "Stuck between a rock and a hard place" scenario.
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Pictures representing this selection.

My connection with Scylla and Charybdis

I have heard the saying "stuck between a rock and and a hard place" many times by my mother and I chose it because I like this story, I find it very compelling and interesting. I have also been in situations referring to the saying before.