With its larger-than-life plot twists, The Odyssey is a classic representation of an epic in literature. With that understood, it is no surprise that the main character of the story helps to define an epic hero. A character must express certain virtues to be considered such. Strength, courage, and nobility are almost prerequisites. Cleverness is an added bonus. Odysseus possesses many characteristics and virtues that make him a true representation of an epic hero.
Strength is one characteristic that Odysseus exhibits. One scene that displays this is when Odysseus, disguised as a poor man, bends his old bow. "He bent the bow with little difficulty. With his right hand he grasped the string and let it twang beautifully. During all this, the suitors were amazed." 194. In contrast, the suitors cannot, try as they might. In particular, "Leiodes was the first to try. He was a fairly decent sort who did not approve of the suitors' arrogance. He took the bow and tried it. He couldn't stretch it. His hands grew sore from the unsuccessful attempt. 189." It enrages them that some pauper has the audacity to be superior in any way. Little do they know that this "pauper" doesn't only have physical strength, but strength of character, as well. Odysseus is able to control his temper, for the most part, and not let his anger betray his true identity to the suitors.
Strength and courage seem to go hand in hand. Alone the two are weak, but together they are nearly invincible. Even before the book takes place, Odysseus exhibits courage in being a war hero. Only the brave succeed so well in battle. In every trial that comes to pass, he shows courage to some extent. When Poseidon wrecks his ship, Odysseus cli...
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... an entire mansion's worth of armor. Odysseus, however, did. Even through his slaughter of the suitors, Odysseus is ever thinking. He commands the musician to play a wedding song to disguise the true action behind the walls. His plans generally worked themselves out. These displays of cleverness set him aside from the more common men. Cleverness is a trait that he is revered for. It proves to be lifesaving more than once.
Odysseus may not display all of the traits associated with epic heroes. However, he still shows a good deal of them. Strength, courage, and nobility are the materials that make up the cookie-cutter of epic heroes. Not all are quite as crafty as him, but that is what sets him apart and makes him his own person. A character doesn't need an unusual birth or foster parents to be considered epic. Odysseus sets a high bar for others classified with him.
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