The Odyssey: The Use Of Hubris

The Odyssey: The Use Of Hubris

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“There is no safety in unlimited hubris” (McGeorge Bundy). The dictionary defines hubris as overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance. In The Odyssey, Homer embodies hubris into the characters Odysseus, the Suitors, and the Cyclopes. Odysseus shows hubris when he is battling the Cyclopes, the Cyclopes show hubris when dealing with Odysseus, and the Suitors show it when Odysseus confronts them at his home.

To start, within the course of The Odyssey, Odysseus displays hubris through many of his actions. The most prominent instance in which Odysseus shows hubris is while he and his men are trying to escape from the Cyclops Polyphemus. They drug the monster until it passes out, and then stab him with a timber in his single eye. Polyphemus, now blinded, removes the gigantic boulder blocking Odysseus’ escape, and waits for the men to move, so he can kill them. The men escape from the cave to their boat by tying themselves under flocks of rams, so they can easily slip by. Odysseus, now proud after beating the giant, starts to yell at Polyphemus, instead of making a silent escape. Odysseus’ men ask him to stop before Polyphemus would “get the range and lob a boulder” (436). But Odysseus shows hubris by saying that if they were to meet again, Odysseus would “take your life” and “hurl you down to hell!” (462; 463). Polyphemus, now extremely angry with Odysseus, prays to his father, Poseidon, to make Odysseus “never see his home” again, and after which, throws a mountain towards the sound of Odysseus’ voice. (470). Because of Odysseus’ hubris after blinding Polyphemus, Poseidon grants the prayer, and it takes Odysseus 20 years to return home, at the cost of the lives of all his men.

Next, Polyphemus demonstrates hubris by believing that because he is a giant, he is unbeatable by anyone, even a god. This is shown when Odysseus meets Polyphemus and greets him with gifts, as it is a custom to show courtesy to hosts and guests alike, (unexpected or not). Failure to give gifts can lead to revenge from the gods. Odysseus tells Polyphemus this, but Polyphemus “would not let you go for fear of Zeus” because the Cyclopes “have more force by far ”. (205; 200) Polyphemus then angers the gods further by kidnapping and eating Odysseus’ men, both of which are considered extremely uncivil in Greek society. Polyphemus is so confident in his invulnerability he lets the men roam free inside the cave, a mistake that leads to his downfall.

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Odysseus and his men acquire a timber, which they cut and burn to a fine point, and plan to attack the Cyclops with it. Odysseus then gets Polyphemus drunk, and when he passes out, takes the timber and drills it into the eye of Polyphemus, completely blinding him forever. Polyphemus’ hubris in believing he is invulnerable and his total lack of the respect for the gods caused him to be blinded forever.

Finally, the Suitors display hubris by having no regard for common decency and lack of respect towards others when they take over Odysseus’ home and family, because they believe, as royalty, they have a right. Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar and goes to his home to beg for his own food, where he meets, and has an encounter with “the most arrogant and outspoken of the suitors” Antinous (pg 638). When Odysseus asks for his own food he is assaulted with a stool thrown by Antinous. Odysseus then points out the selfishness of the suitors when they eat another person’s food but won’t share some of it with other people. When Odysseus removes the disguise, and reveals himself, the suitors offer restution for their actions and behavior towards Odysseus’ family, at which, Odysseus rejects and, and along with Telemachus, proceeds to destroy the remaining suitors. Because of their hubris in believing they had the right to another’s dynasty, the suitors paid the ultimate price.

In summary, Odysseus, the Suitors, and Cyclops all exhibit hubris throughout The Odyssey. Homer illustrates his characters in The Odyssey to show hubris through their thoughts, words, and actions. Hubris is everywhere within literature and everyday life, but it is especially prominent within The Odyssey.
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