Free Essays: The Charater of Odysseus of Homer's Odyssey

Free Essays: The Charater of Odysseus of Homer's Odyssey

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The Charater of Odysseus of Homer's Odyssey

 

      The most admired classical hero is most certainly Odysseus, the

mythological Grecian subject of Homer's epic tale, The Odyssey.  This

legendary figure displays excessive amounts of brains and muscle, seeming

almost superhuman at times.  He embodies the ideals Homeric Greeks aspired

to: manly valor, loyalty, piety, and intelligence.  The popularity of

Odysseus transcends time.  To this day he remains greatly admired as both a

hero and an ordinary man who must deal with great adventures and retrieving

the life he once had.  For twenty years Odysseus overcame each obstacle the

gods handed to him.  He was always respectful to the gods, acknowledging

their control of fate and realizing that he needed help if he was to ever

get back to Ithaca and his beloved family.  He showed keen observation,

instinct, and caution.  He is great at disguises, capable of concealing his

feelings, and a fast, inventive liar: heroic qualities that got him through

his adversities.  Odysseus is also very human, and the reader can see these

many qualities as well.  He is often moved to tears.  He makes mistakes,

gets himself into tricky situations, and loses his temper.  We see him play

not only a hero but also a husband, father, and son.  He takes on the very

human roles of athlete, warrior, sailor, storyteller, carpenter, beggar,

and lover.  He vividly displays human qualities like brutality and boldness,

while being sensitive and shy at the same time.  It is these human

qualities that people can relate to.  While he is no doubt a hero, Odysseus

is also viewed as a modern man, the pragmatic survivor.  He must struggle,

suffer, and deal with the inescapable fate handed down to him from the

great beings atop Mt. Olympus. The average human can relate to Odysseus'

human qualities, while admiring him for the heroic traits they can only

hope to attain, making him so popular.  Odysseus has the skills, strength,

and intelligence to qualify him as a hero, yet he still possess the

emotional constraints of a human, which together enable him to survive the

chaotic disorder of his adventure.  His journey was rich with people and

places and totally unpredictable, just as life is for everybody.  From

ancient Greeks to today's reader, it is easy to commiserate with Odysseus

while at the same time idolize him for dealing with life as it came at him.

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      To survive twenty years of fighting, storms, and the wrath of gods,

Odysseus proves he possesses the super human qualities of a hero.  Odysseus

showed he was a hero early on, as a talented warrior in the Trojan War.  He

was a leader throughout the battle, always trying to keep things in order

so the battle for Troy could move forward.  He was a great fighter, and

could be ruthless as well as tricky.  He was always, "first by a long way

in all plots and schemes." (34).  While the warriors had been fighting and

scheming unsuccessfully for an entire decade, it was Odysseus' plan to

invade troy with the wooden horse that led the army to victory over the

Trojans.  It was actions like these that exemplified Odysseus' high level

of intelligence, a major qualifying characteristic of his hero status.

Some would describe him as, "a man whose mind was as wise as the gods..."

(150).  Odysseus suffered for many long years on land and sea, yet was wise

enough to overcome everything he faced, using his brain to solve problems,

having the capacity of thinking equal to that of the gods. He came up with

great plans to help him on his adventures, such as the time he was trapped

in the Cyclops' cave.  He came up with the ingenious plan to take an olive

wood poll and, "rub it into his eye while he was sound asleep." (106).

This way, the Cyclops would be blinded and the sailors could make their

escape.  Odysseus also displayed the strength of a hero through his epic

journey.  He was an, "indomitable man..." (49).   He really was incapable of

being subdued or overcome, possessing great amounts of physical strength.

Most men would succumb to the exhaustion of twenty years of obstacles, but

not Odysseus.  His strength never faltered, and the Greeks figured, "he

must be made of iron..." (143).  When sailing away from Calypso's island, he

was informed by Ino that Poseidon would destroy his raft, so he swam for

two nights and two days, an act that would have caused a lesser man to

perish.  Odysseus also displays his heroic strength when he returns to

Ithaca.  Upon arriving home and finding over a hundred suitors trying to

steal his wife, he took his revenge.  With only his son to help, he killed

all the intruders, despite the fact that he was greatly outnumbered.  While

intelligence and strength were the main defining qualities of a heroic

Odysseus, he had other important characteristics as well.  He was great at

disguises and an exceptional liar.  Upon his arrival to Ithaca, he posed as

an old beggar; able to fool even his own devoted wife.  He was even able to

conceal his feelings of joy until the right time; a difficult task

requiring much strength for anyone who has had an extended absence from

their home and family.  Odysseus was well away of his heroic triumphs,

saying, "I could tell you of more sorrow than theirs, which I have borne

from first to last..." (85).  He realized he had experienced more obstacles

in his own life than a normal person, and yet was able to overcome it all.

With his intelligence, physical and emotional strength, Odysseus is

undoubtedly not your ordinary man. He can easily be identified as a hero

for all that he achieves on his journeys.

 

      While Odysseus has the intelligence and strength of a hero, he

still experiences emotional pain, and struggles with life just as any human

being does.  The emotional and physical trauma he experiences are

characteristic of an ordinary man, which keep him human and easier to

relate with.  Odysseus was not a perfect hero, and had his bad days.  Not

surprisingly, twenty years of hardships took its toll.  Sometimes he was

simply, "wretched and miserable..." (62).  While on the island with Calypso,

for instance, he really missed his own home, and this left him with a

sorrow that at times could overcome even his strongest heroic qualities.

Calypso would often observe Odysseus, "...sitting in his usual place on the

stone, wearing out his soul with lamentation and tears." (63).  Being held

prisoner on an island made Odysseus very upset.  Feelings of helplessness

and missing his family drained him of any heroism and left him very much an

ordinary man, giving in to his emotions.   There were times when Odysseus

wanted to give up.  Before arriving in the lad of the Phaecians, "he tossed

about for two nights and two days on the rolling waves, always looking for

death." (70).  The physical pain he was experiencing under the direction of

Poseidon was too great for even this strong warrior, and he felt death

would be his only relief from earthly suffering.  Yet, in this hour of

trial when the entire world seemed to forsake him he managed to survive

once again.  He made it to land, where he took shelter in a thicket near a

river.  His suffering was far from over though.

 

        "All his body was swollen, and the salt water bubbles from mouth

and nostrils...and awful weariness overcame him."(71).  His body physically

suffered from all that was demanded of him during his journeys.  He was not

immortal, and did experience pain like other people, though it usually took

more to affect him.  Odysseus was also known to occasionally make mistakes,

getting himself into tricky situations.  After he had safely escaped from

the clutches of the wretched Cyclops, he tormented the mighty beast,

causing him to, "break off the peak of a tall rock and throw it..." (110).

This mistake could have cost Odysseus and his men their lives, but like any

normal man a proud Odysseus thought it necessary to celebrate his victory

by mocking the beast.  It was times like these Odysseus needed the help of

the gods, and was often, "praying to his guardian goddess." (81).  Odysseus

prayed to Athena to keep him safe and help him return to Ithaca, knowing he

possessed neither the strength nor the knowledge nec essary to get home.

He even admits he is, "not at all like the immortals who rule the broad

heavens, either in stature or feature, but I am just a mortal man." (85).

Odysseus couldn't possibly do it all on his own.  Like he said, he was just

a mortal man, and like any mortal he needed help at times.  Being able to

admit this makes Odysseus an extraordinary man, but none the less just a

man.  He experienced the emotional and physical constraints characteristic

of any human.

 

      From the earliest Greek society to today's modern reader, Odysseus

is ever popular for the heroism he displayed in his adventures, while still

experiencing the human emotions that make him seem more realistic.  After

traveling for twenty years, he no doubt became well known, not only for his

accomplishments as a warrior and a hero, but also for his qualities as an

exceptional human being.  Odysseus is best known for dealing with the wrath

of gods and goddesses.  He dealt with Poseidon, Circe, Calypso, and

numerous others, and was well known on Olympus for this.  He was especially

popular with Athena, who cared greatly, "for that glorious man Odysseus."

(37).  From the beginning Athena took a special interest in Odysseus,

helping him to return to Ithaca and his family once again.  She even refers

to him as "Odysseus Laertiades, prince never unready!" (271).  He was

indeed always ready to his obstacles, never faltering under the

difficulties of the tasks and the strain of being away from home.  Odysseus

was equally popular among the mortals.  When Telemachos was asking about

his father, king Menelaos says, "Dear me, I did love that man." (47).  The

Greeks loved Odysseus not only for his ability to survive harsh conditions,

but for his "famous cleverness..."(66).  His popularity began as a warrior in

the battle of Troy, where he devised the wooden horse for the secret attack

on the Trojans. From then on, he was admired for all that he overcame in

his twenty years of adventures.  Odysseus had more intelligence and instict

than the average human, and for this people throughout the land would "

honour him like a god..."(62).  Odysseus embodied all that the Greeks admired,

and for this he was held in reverence.  He represented the persona that

Greeks could only hope to attain.  Not only was Odysseus popular with the

gods and mortals of ancient Greece, he remains well known even today.  Upon

Odysseus' long awaited return to Ithaca, his popularity was already forseen.

 "He did indeed take his vengeance, and his fame shall be carried down in

the world for generations to come."(36).  Odysseus hardly had a peaceful

homecoming, killing the hundreds of suitors invading his home.  He took his

revenge on them for the years of torment they subjected his wife and son to,

and this act was the grand finale to the list of achievements Odysseus

would remain ever popular for.

 

      Odysseus was greatly admired in Greece, and has undoubtedly

remained a figure of importance for hundreds of years.  During the Golden

Age of Greece, he was respected and admired for the strength he displayed

in dealing with the gods and taking his vengeance.  In more modern times,

Odysseus symbolizes the goal that has fleeted many for years- to be strong

and wise, yet capable of human feeling.  Odysseus is all this and more.  He

overcame all that the gods put forth while still being respectful of them,

he showed extreme wit and strength in all his battles, and remained a

loving and compassionate man throughout the entity of his journey.  His

odyssey was long and full of adventure, rich with people and places, never

going as planned.  It was a life, full of the surprises and extremely

unpredictable.  When people today experience obstacles in their own lives,

they need only remember Odysseus to get them through the tough times.

The common translation of the name Odysseus is "Victim of Enmity".

Odysseus was indeed a victim, yet overcame all his problems, giving hope to

the readers of this age and for generations to come that we too can

overcome whatever obstacles life may bring us.

 
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