Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rethinking Monsters

Odysseus, on his long journey home to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus, had survived the terrors of a hideous monster, Scylla, who devoured many of his crew in the shadows of a narrow sea passage. The blind prophet Teiresias had warned the mighty hero of the dangers of this terrible foe, but desiring home more than fearing for his life, Odysseus chanced the terrors of Scylla. He and his men courageously sailed through the narrow, rocky passage where she lurked in the shadows. In a few awful moments, the multiheaded Scylla tore the sailors to pieces with gnashing, razorlike teeth, and one by one devoured the bloody remains. Watching in helpless horror, Odysseus and the few men left rowed with all their might, fleeing the fearsome monster.

In an unrelenting succession of terror, the Greek warship then edged ever closer to the monstrous tidal pool known as Charybdis. The ever-hungry whirlpool swallowed the rest of his crew, only Odysseus managing to escape with his life, though it wouldn’t be much of a life now. Battered and broken, brave Odysseus clung desperately to a piece of wreckage and was tossed by the waves of the Poseidon’s sea. Believing now that he would never see his sweet Ithaca again, he felt himself falling into darkness, with the sea god’s curse echoing through the recesses of his mind.

Not many adolescents have had encounters with mythological monsters like Scylla and Charybdis. However, considering the formidable experiences they have faced heretofore, one could contend that they are nearly equivalent to the horrors that confronted Odysseus. While the students may not have stared into the daggerlike teeth of Scylla, there are those who have been abused physically, emotionally, and sexually. None of them have been drowned in the powerful whirling waters of Charybdis, but there are those who have drowned in the overpowering expectations and demands of parents and friends. Many students have encountered monsters just as ghastly as those described in Homer’s epic. Where do they turn for solace and shelter from the storm? Where did Odysseus turn?

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