Odysseus as a Heroic Individual
Every culture around the world had their heroes, and he is the embodiment of the most admired values and ideals of the people, is someone who has courage and has risked or sacrificed his life for others. A hero was a leader who had not only physical strength, but mental strength as well. He was usually someone that got themselves into danger, and in cases where the average man would suffer, the hero would have enough stamina to survive. Odysseus, a famous Greek epic hero, displays all these qualities throughout his travels home, and abroad.
In Homer’s The Odysseys, Odysseus has always been labeled as smart, brave, calm, and godlike, but calamitous also describe his life appropriately. Odysseus faces obstacles, which require him to display bravery in combat in order to overcome these impediments. There is also a film version of the story of Odysseys, Ulysses, from 1954. The film seems to focus more on Odysseus as being extremely courageous, physically strong, and a great risk taker; obviously to add to his appeal.
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On the Land of the Kyklopes, Odysseus must utilize his courage to stab Polyphemos in order for his men and him to escape the beast’s cave. Another instance of this bravery comes during book 13 when Odysseus has no other choice but to fight the dozens of suitors, whom out number his miniscule mob of men, to the death. In both scenes, Odysseus has the odds against him in battle. However, as a hero he understands he must be brave in combat to continue his journey in pursuit to return home and save Ithica. Unlike the book with a major content of how Odyesseus’ son Telemachus went to look for his father, the movie mainly focused on the adventure of Odysseus’ journey and what have he been through. The movie detailed the scenes that Odysseus left his wife, how he wins the Troy War, and how he offends Poseidon by stabbing his son to blind, then got revenged.
Another type of bravery shown by Odysseus is his gallantry, which is defined as adventurous bravery. Throughout the epic poem, he makes various stops on alien islands without knowledge of what awaits inland. His gallantry urges him to venture into these unfamiliar territories. Such as on the island of Ismaros, where his gallantry is the cause to his growth as a hero because he learns valuable lessons at these islands. Another instance of gallantry is when Odysseus travels into the Underworld. He has an idea of what awaits for him in the land of Hades, however the fact he journeys into the depth of the underworld alone requires much more adventurous bravery out of Odysseus. Unlike the book by narrating a story, the movie was added a sense of romanticism, when Odysseus travels the underworld, he met his mom, and that gives one of the emotional scenes of the movie.
The last type of courage shown by the hero is fortitude. This type of bravery is arguably the most challenging to overcome since it requires an individual to be courageous while in a distressful environment. Even though Odysseus is suffering due to the seven years of hardships while simultaneously baring the wrath of Poseidon, he still possesses composure and courage when Ino tells him to take a leap of faith into the ocean. Another example of fortitude is the episode when Odysseus must make a decision to travel down the path of Kharybdis or Skylla. He has no easy path to take because in either direction a fatalistic outcome could occur. He is puzzled in the direction to go because of his fear of making the wrong judgment and having his crew perish. However, as a hero, he holds onto his fortitude which gives him the strength to make a final call which is him saying, “I sent them on toward Skylla, I / told them nothing, as they could do nothing. / They would have dropped their oars again, in panic,/ to roll for cover under the decking.” (XII, 289-293). This quote shows even though this fork in the road is an inevitable obstacle to overcome, Odysseus has the ability to make the tough decision of sacrifice while under immense pressure. With Odysseus’s courage comes his honor. Honor is the ability to do the right thing because it is what should be done – not because it only benefits that single person. Odysseus shows this characteristic through his ability to be courageous enough to what is right regardless of the consequences that he perceives. Bravery is one of the first qualities to come to mind when thinking of a hero and without a question, Odysseus has exemplified this trait profusely throughout the epic poem.
Odysseus’s expeditious wisdom was a vital component in his hero’s journey. He first shows us his intellect by demonstrating his ability to comprehend the supremacy of the gods. Even though in the beginning of his hero’s journey Odysseus’s flaw was his hubris, he came to realize his weakness and modify his attitude to have more piety. One instance when we see this change in his faith with the gods is when he trusts Aiolos to not open the bag of winds. Then he listens to the advice of Tiresias to not eat the flock of cattle of the Sun God on Thrinakia, which ultimately saves his life. The fact Odysseus is able to realize the gods are the almighty beings to mortals is key to his survival. Another heroic trait is his stern conviction, his ability to remain faithful in his beliefs even in time of skepticism, which Homer portrays through Odysseus’s piety. Another category Odysseus exhibits is his quick thinking. While trapped in the cave of the Kyklops, he quickly uses his resource of wine to intoxicate the giant and knock him out which results in lives saved. Also, he makes a hasty decision to tie up his crew members to their rowing boards so they aren’t memorized to stay on the Land of the Lotus Eaters. His last example of his cunning is his ability to deceive others into thinking he is someone he is not. This is first exemplified when he pretends to be a beggar to the suitors. Then he tricks everyone in the palace that he is not Odysseus but rather a poor man. Odysseus’s wits are one of his greatest expedients and make him a hero since he used them for benevolent reasons.
Lastly, Odysseus possesses a sense of selflessness, which shows his aspiration as a hero to complete his quest for others and not just for his personal desires. The first group of people he demonstrates his compassion towards is his crew. He does this by making sure that all his crew is tied to the sheep’s wool firmly while sneaking out of the Kyklops’s cave. However, by tying his companions, there is no one left to secure him safety while he departs the cave. As their leader, Odysseus’s crew acts like his children in the years on their voyage together. It is his job as the one they look up to for hope and guidance to make sure they are safe. He further exemplifies this by going back to burry Elpenor since he realized it is his fault he has not been put to rest even though this stop on his journey is far out of his way. His crew is a very important group of men to Odysseus. They have been together in diminishing numbers over the decade and he perceives he must keep as many men with him as possible as their leader, even if it means risking his life. Also, Odysseus shows compassion towards his realm of Ithica. While in the form of a beggar, a stool is thrown at him, which is sure to infuriate the hero.
However, if Odysseus was to act up or fight back to preserve his pride, he would have be the victim to the multiple suitor who would have the potential to kill him and ruin his chances of succeeding in his plan to overcome the suitors. Lastly, He shows selflessness towards his family. He resists committing adultery for only his lustful purposes. Part of his hero’s journey includes facing temptations that test his character, which if he succumbs to exempts him from being a hero. However, Odysseus was successful with his efforts to restrain himself from his natural desire for only his selfish pleasure. Even when it was absolutely necessary he informs his lover: “I myself you hold, enticing/ into your chamber, to your dangerous bed,/ to take my manhood, when you have me stripped./ I mount no bed of love with you upon it.” (X, 382-285). This reveals Odysseus has no intentions of making intimate love, his purposes are strictly business and the only women he loves is Penelope. Also, he locks the women in a room before the fight with the suitors is about to take place. Selflessness is an essential trait to be qualified as a hero. Along with selflessness, hand-in-hand, comes the honorable trait loyalty. Loyalty is to be faithful to a person, party, or cause and Odysseus shows this through his selfless acts.
Odysseus demonstrates many heroic qualities through his courage, cunning, and generosity. Odysseus has to undergo many hardships that test him mentally and physically as a human being. He is faced with many challenges and temptations that most people would have succumb to. Even though Odysseus is not the perfect hero because of his moral identification, he still can be considered a hero due to the fact that he has great achievement and his bravery.
- Camerini, Mario, director. Ulysses. 1955.
- Homer. The Odysseys. 1904.