Odyssey Essay, Research Paper
An epic hero can be described as a legendary figure endowed with great strength or ability that is admired for his achievements and noble qualities. To better explain the true meaning of an epic hero, one might compare this definition to the legendary hero in Homer?s The Odyssey, the great Odysseus. Through The Odyssey, we, the readers, are taken on a journey of the main character, Odysseus, bearing witness to the many vices and virtues that play a pivotal role on his voyage to his homeland of Ithaca. On his journey, he encounters the many supernatural beings of Greek literature, forcing him to make decisions that greatly impact his life. Through these encounters, his unique heroic qualities are clearly depicted in numerous ways. A man of outstanding prowess and bravery, Odysseus uses his cunning ideas and insuperable intelligence to overcome the many obstacles presented to him. He is a crafty thinker, always searching for the best resolution that will prove beneficial to himself and others.
?I was already plotting? What was the best way out? How could I find escape from death for my crew, myself as well? My wits kept weaving, weaving cunning schemes ? life at stake, monstrous death staring us in the face.? (Book IX, lines 469-472)
While his physical strength is greater than most, it is his emotional stability and level-headedness that allow him to reason and evaluate situations so well, thus often emerging victorious. But, without his perseverance, faith and ability to never lose sight of his true goals, he would have never managed to survive and reach his homeland of Ithaca.
In times of peril, Odysseus was able to depend on his bravery and tact. Being the master of strategy, he often rationalized his way to victory by using his quick wit and persuasive personality. His cunning and creative ideas used when manipulating situations to fall in his favor were nearly flawless. A perfect example of his ability to maneuver out of tricky situations was demonstrated in his encounter with Polyphemus, the Cyclops. Odysseus and his crew were trapped in a cave by Polyphemus awaiting what they thought would be a gruesome and fatalistic end to their journey. However, after persuading Polyphemus into intoxication and then blinding him, Odysseus and his men were able to hide in the underbellies of rams. They clung to their fur as the exasperated Cyclops directed the rams from his cave in the hopes that he would find and devour Nobody, whom he would later identify to be Odysseus, and the remainder of his crew.
?He let my ram go free outside. But as soon as we?d got one foot past cave and courtyard, first I loosed myself from the ram, then loosed my men, then quickly, glancing back again we drove our flock, good plump beasts with their long shanks, straight to the ship, and a welcome sight we were to loyal comrades ? we who?d escaped our deaths.? (Book IX, lines 515-521)
His intelligence and ability to stay calm in catastrophic situations prove to be an asset to more than just his own life.
In times of danger and desolation, Odysseus remains steadfast and strong. He is a true survivor, learning and maturing from the many obstacles he faces and using his experience to its highest potential. He is a fearless warrior who uses his omnipotence to defeat even the most treacherous of beasts. He is a cunning assailant who fights with intensity, authority and confidence. A great example of Odysseus the warrior was depicted in the scenes where Odysseus finally returned home to Ithaca only to find that his house had been overrun by unruly suitors. They fed off his wealth and competed for the hand of his wife, Penelope. Learning of these atrocities, Odysseus teamed up with his son, Telemachus and his faithful servant, removing all intruders from his home, sending many to their graves.
?And the princely suitors, flinging their hands in the air, died laughing. Grabbing him by the leg, Odysseus hauled him through the porch, across the yard to the outer gate, heaped him against the courtyard wall, sitting slumped, stuck his stick in his hand and gave him a parting shot? (Book 18, lines 115-120)
Odysseus?s magnificent strength is an important part of his character as a hero. He fits the role physically; his appearance is strong and commanding. His physical characteristics and abilities contribute greatly to the honor he is given and the feats he is able to perform. His image is sturdy, dependable and chivalrous.
Self-discipline and sacrifice are two of the key attributes that are commonly overlooked when breaking down the components of Odysseus?s heroic nature. Odysseus possessed an unwavering determination that kept his morals and goals constantly intact. In his adventures, he faced death daily, suffering a torturous existence at the hands of the gods. When Telemachus, his son, journeyed to Sparta, The King reflected on one of the many times that Odysseus put his life on the line.
?Yes, and just now, as I was talking about Odysseus, remembering how he struggled, suffered, all for me, a flood of tears came streaming down his face and he clutched his purple robe before his eyes.?
No matter how rough the road got, the desire to return home into the arms of his wife was never completely shaken and he never gave up hope that he would succeed in his endeavors.
?I long ? I pine, all my days ? to travel home and see the dawn of my return. And if a god will wreck me yet again on the wine-dark sea, I can bear that too, with a spirit tempered to endure. Much have I suffered in the waves and wars. And this to the total ? bring the trial on!?
(Book IV pg.159, lines 242-248)
He was faithful to the love of his wife, Penelope, even as temptations were forced upon him. When Odysseus was held hostage by Calypso, who offered him gifts of immortality and a life of utopia for his hand in marriage, he refused, never losing sight of his ultimate goal ? Ithaca.
?One man alone?His heart set on his wife and his return ? Calypso, the bewitching nymph, the lustrous goddess, held him back, deep in her arching caverns, craving him for a husband.? (Book I, lines 15-20)
He constantly endured the heartache of his ill-fated existence, sacrificing himself physically and emotionally so that he might one day emerge victorious. If it weren?t for these important heroic qualities Odysseus would not have been able to stay so emotionally intact and determined on reaching his goals, turning obstacles into stepping-stones and letting nothing impede his progress.
Although Odysseus was fortunate to have great intelligence and strength, he was not without flaws. He was somewhat arrogant and boastful of his achievements. His pride, though sometimes a driving force to victory, was often more detrimental than good. His foolishness proved to be a thorn in his side throughout his journey. After pulling an ingenious trick on the Cyclops, Odysseus exclaimed,
?Cyclops ? if any man on the face of the earth should ask you who blinded you, shamed you so ? say Odysseus, raider of the cities, he gouged your eye, Laertes? son who makes his home in Ithaca!? (Book 9, lines 556-562)
In saying this, Odysseus brought the wrath of Poseidon down upon himself. Much of the trouble he encountered could have been avoided had he been a more humble and gracious winner. Odysseus could quite possibly have been his own worst enemy.
Ultimately, Odysseus rose above his setbacks and enjoyed a successful end to his long and tedious journey. The gods began to take notice of his hard work and smiled down upon him, causing his luck to change for the better. Eventually, he was honored upon his return and revered as a hero. His conquest was sweet, having been rewarded with the love of his family and respect of his homeland. The suffering and turmoil seem a distant memory as his destiny no longer appeared to be ill-fated. His hard work and sacrifice had paid off. His heroic qualities of strength, intelligence and determination allowed him to be successful in his ultimate destination. His courage, wits and endurance enabled him to conquer all the difficulties presented, such as the Cyclops, the suitors and his foolish pride, and arrive home safely. Through strength and wisdom of experience he grew from a somewhat arrogant hero into a humble survivor, appreciative of the goals he had worked so hard to achieve. A true mastermind of brain and brawn, fighting for the favor of gods and surviving for love, Odysseus is without a doubt a hero of the highest caliber.