“Ooooof!” Yelled Polyphemus as burning timbers penetrate the gooey surface of his iris. Odysseus jumped off the giant creature’s back and landed smoothly on his feet. Blinded by the fiery hot stake, Polyphemus clutched his eye and hit the ground with an audible thump. Groaning and twisting about, the beast knocks down huge boulders that served as tables and the cacophony of sounds frightened the goats that he carefully tends to. However, quickly after his twitching and spasms, he fell into a state of unconsciousness. What led Polyphemus to this treacherous fate? And why did Homer choose to include the famous Cyclops in this tragedy?
The use of Polyphemus is ingenious in the “Odyssey”, because Polyphemus’s lack of intelligence easily contrasts with Odysseus’s quick and rational thinking. Homer builds Polyphemus as means of making Odysseus more multi-dimensional and better liked for his wits and cleverness. The cannibalistic giant was easily fooled when he asked for Odysseus’s name before he threatened to dismember the mighty war hero. When asked about his name, Odysseus replied by saying, “Nobody –that’s my name. Nobody –so my mother and father call me, all my friends,” (9.410). The simple-minded antagonist did not even doubt the legitimacy of that fake name for a second, that even when he shouts for help as Odysseus blinds him, he screams, “Nobody’s killing me now by fraud and not by force!” (9.455). This gullible behavior allows the readers to train the spotlight on Odysseus in terms of intelligence.
However, what Polyphemus lacks in brains, he makes up in brawn. For example, he evidently shows his physical strength as he, “snatched two at once, rapping them on the ground, he knocked them dead like pups –their brains gushed out all over, soaked the floor –and ripping them limb from limb to fix his meal…” (9.326). This line was used to describe the gruesome death of some of Odysseus’s fellow companions. Following their deaths, Polyphemus is set up as one of the most important antagonists in Greek literature. What is a story without any obstacles? All good stories must have an issue that needs to be resolved. Homer takes this chance to add yet another seemingly insurmountable obstacle to his happy reunion with his fair Penelope. Odysseus’s intelligence has saved him from many situations before, but escaping the caves of Polyphemus not only requires intelligence, but it also takes bravery and discipline.
Odysseus’s quick thinking is also evident in his escape of the cave. In the story, only one object stands between death and salvation. An enormous boulder so big that only Polyphemus could move. Over the course of the next couple days, Odysseus and his men observe the habits of the...