The Ramayan and The Odyssey

Compare the Ramayana with The Odyssey in terms of the portrayal of evildoers and their treatment at the story’s conclusion.

When comparing how the evildoers in The Odyssey and the Ramayana are depicted and treated, differences start to become apparent. In The Odyssey, the suitors, who are trying to take everything that Odysseus has, including his wife and country, are considered evildoers. In this case the evildoers are not necessarily “evil” because they aren’t trying to cause harm to others, they are only trying to fulfill their own greedy agendas of becoming kings. They are portrayed more as leechers and moochers, than evil minded individuals. When Odysseus finally has the opportunity to purge his house of these evildoers he does so in a merciless fashion where no one is spared, including anyone who corroborated with the suitors. There is no pity shown and everyone dies a dishonorable death and no honor was given to their dead bodies. It was as though Odysseus came home to clean out the garbage. When comparing this treatment of the evildoers to the Ramayana, we see how Rama shows compassion and honor to his enemy, Ravana. Ravana is actually considered “evil” and does cause harm to others, unlike the suitors from The Odyssey. Also unlike the suitors, Ravana, had a fair one on one battle with Rama, showing honor and courtesy. After Rama’s victory over Ravana, we can see just how much respect he gives to his fallen enemy when he says, “It is not right that you should grieve, for a mighty warrior fallen on the battlefield. Victory is a monopoly for none: a hero is either slain in battle or he kills his opponent…. the warrior who is killed in combat should not be mourned.” (Valmiki Yuddha 112, 113). Rama then goes on to grant a proper burial for Ravana, stating that “Hostility ends at death…. He is your brother as he is mine, too.” (Valmiki Yuddha 112, 113). Just like Rama, Sita also shows mercy and forgiveness when she spares the lives of the demonesses that tormented her.

2 thoughts on “The Ramayan and The Odyssey

  1. I enjoyed your analysis. You clearly differentiate how the “evil” plays in both of the works. Both suitors in The Odyssey and Ravana want to satisfy with their desire and lust.

  2. You make a great point here about a possible distinction between emphasis on mercy in Ancient Hindu culture that somehow manifests in Valmiki’s epic and a lack of it in The Odyssey (and perhaps, therefore, somehow profoundly in western civilization). One might say this makes Rama and Sita more absolute, simple, and/or less complex heroes in the sense that they are only apparently physical beings, embodiments of values sent to humanity for a divine purpose that may or may not be totally knowable to us. But maybe this makes them less interesting? Does our aesthetic interest in Odysseus and/or Penelope depend upon them being as confused, confusing, and/or ambivalent as we are?

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