Odysseus: Analysis of a Hero

on Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On the surface, Homer’s Odysseus seems like an ideal hero. He is brave, and strong, and as handsome as the gods. He is clever as well, as he easily tricks the Cyclops Polyphemus, and he can think on his feet, as is proved by the elaborate story he tells Eumaeus. Odysseus is adored by almost everyone; Circe, Calypso, and Nausicaa all fall in love with him almost instantly, and Athena goes out of her way to get him home safely. The only character in the Odyssey that doesn’t like Odysseus seems to be Poseidon, and his dislike was spurred by Odysseus’s blinding of his son, Polyphemus, and act which, to be fair, Odysseus only did in order it save his live and those of his crew.

Upon studying his character further, however, Odysseus is not as heroic as he might seem at a first glance. He is self centered and moody, and he is twice unfaithful to his wife, first with Circe, then with Calypso. He obviously thinks very highly of himself, and while he claims to have remorse over the deaths of the majority of his crew, he doesn’t shed many tears over it. He thinks nothing of pillaging unprotected towns after the sacking of Troy, and seems to be showered with riches wherever he goes. Additionally, no one in the story seems aware of Odysseus’s flaws. Odysseus is painted as a virtuous character in the eyes of all but the reader, and because of this, he seems egotistical and is easy to resent.

By the standards of his time, Odysseus is the epitome of a hero, but to a modern reader, he falls short of the praise he is given within the poem.


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