Can a Hero have Flaws?
When you think of the word “hero”, what comes to mind? Possibly someone in bright tights, and cape that leads a double life fighting crime? Well, that is not how the Greeks thought of a hero. Their idea of a hero was someone with honorable characteristics who protected and defended the beliefs of the people. Their hero was someone brave, and noble, and nobody was more brave and noble than Odysseus. He defended their values and protected them. Nevertheless, a hero is not without flaws. Odysseus certainly was not flawless. But the question remains, Is someone considered a hero if they have flaws? Odysseus showed signs of weakness in his encounter with a Cyclops, in the Land of the Dead, and with Calypso. Although, many of his adventures revealed many moments of epic heroism that lead to the overall success of Odysseus. Proving that someone can still be considered an epic hero if they have weaknesses.
One of the earliest examples of his acts of heroism in the Odyssey was in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. Odysseus and his crew had been sailing for a long time and had lost hope in returning home safely when they came across the Land of the Lotus Eaters. The Lotus Eaters were not particularly dangerous, they had no intention of harming Odysseus or his crew, but they enticed a few men to taste their flowers. The flowers were enchanted so that when you consumed one, you never wanted to leave or stop eating them. Odysseus quickly caught on to this, and told his men that they could not stay. If they had remained on the island they would forget about their homeland or any hope for return. Considering that his men were under some spell, they were reluctant to say the least. Odysseus leapt into action and tied the hands of his men to the ship so they could not escape to the lotus and then he set sail. Odysseus showed excellent leadership and initiative by doing what was best for his crew and their return home.
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Despite his recent act of heroism, it should not be forgotten that he is a mortal and made some mistakes along the way. After escaping the Lotus Eaters, Odysseus arrived on an island that was home to beasts called Cyclops’. A Cyclops was a creature that somewhat resembled a man, he was much larger, and had one eye in the middle of his forehead. This species was deadly and ruthless. They had no sense of morals or hospitality, which was an extremely important value in that time. . They could not be reasoned with. Odysseus set up camp on the island in search of food and shelter from the waves. Later he encountered a mighty Cyclops named Polyphemus. Odysseus knew that he and his men would not be able to conquer this creature by force. He would have to be clever. After using trickery and wits, Odysseus and his men successfully escaped Polyphemus. However, as they were sailing away, Odysseus called out to the Cyclops and taunted him. “All but stove us in! Give him our bearing with your trumpeting he’ll get the range and lob a boulder.” (Kinsella 996). His crew begged him to just leave the beast alone, but arrogance and greed clouded his judgement. This was an important example of how Odysseus did not show heroic traits.