Is Odysseus A Hero? Essay

2027 words - 8 pages

Throughout the epic, Odysseus is portrayed by his friends and peers as a magnificent man, a godlike figure. But, throughout the journeys of The Odyssey, Odysseus’ true character shows. Heroes are no exception to human nature; all people tend to act differently in public than in private. A commonly accepted definition of a hero is, “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” Odysseus has not shown the noble characteristics of a hero by acting cowardly, barbaric, selfish and greedy in certain situations; such qualities do not deserve such a title. To be a hero, you must have a noble and courageous purpose. As The Odyssey moves along, Odysseus is revealed not to be a hero through his ignoble acts. Homer uses the character of Odysseus to depict false morality which undermines the concept of his heroism.
A main reason why Odysseus is not a hero is because he manipulated the truth and achieved his victories through lies. Achilles, the hero from the Iliad explains his thoughts on the matter, “I hate that man like the very Gates of Death / who says one thing but hides another in his heart” (Knox, 37). Bernard Knox who wrote the introduction to the Odyssey explains how Odysseus prides himself on his ability to cover and manipulate the truth. Bernard also says, “He will gladly employ deceit to win victory” (Knox, 38). A hero is a man of honor with a noble purpose and heart, but Odysseus has neither. The main characteristics of a hero are that they can do heroic things, but retain their nobility. If we sacrifice the truth for progress then we are no

better than the monsters that we fight. Lying and cheating to get things done is wrong and usually has bad consequences.
Another reason why Odysseus should not be called a hero is because of his barbaric fighting style. It is true that a hero should be brave and fight for honor, but throughout this epic Odysseus has fought in many dishonorable ways. For example, in Book Ten of The Odyssey, Odysseus defeats the Cyclops by getting him drunk and blinding him. True heroes fight head on and do not lower themselves to barbarians who utilize underhanded strategies. It is because of these fighting tactics and Odysseus’ hubris that he lost his entire crew. After winning the battle with the Cyclops Odysseus’ hubris got the better of him and he decided to mock his enemy during which he revealed his true identity (Homer, 10.558). Later on, it is told that the Cyclops’ father was Poseidon. Now that the Cyclops knew Odysseus’ name he was able to tell his father, who later cursed Odysseus’ voyage home. Another act of barbarity was when Odysseus fought with Irus the beggar. “Now hold your post-play the scarecrow to all the pigs and dogs!” (Homer, 18.121). Odysseus yells this line to Irus after he has beaten him and broken the bones in his neck. This is not a noble quality of a hero. A hero would not mock his opponent after he had won. Irus was already half dead, but...

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