Odysseus, An Unconventional Hero Depicted In The Odyssey

1834 words - 7 pages

An Unconventional Hero

According to Greek mythology, a hero is one who values glory above life itself

and honorably dies in the battle during his prime period of his life. After the gods and

demi-god of Greece, heroes probably are the most admirable figures in society. However,

Odysseus seems to defy the conventional definition of a hero. He is overwhelmed with

tremendous obstacles and difficulty, often beyond that a normal man could endure but he

determines to stay alive rather than die young. Achilles states in Book 11 “I’d rather

be a hired hand back on earth…, | Than lord it over all these withered dead”(Odyssey

11.510-512). Achilles’ statement appears to solidify Odysseus’s determination to live and

enhance Odysseus’s right decision for not following the heroic conduct. Nevertheless,

Odysseus is the most reputable hero among the Achaeans in Ithaca. He is thus the

representative of an unconventional hero. In the Odyssey, a hero is perhaps one who

undergoes life with anguish and suffering but manages to stay alive using his quality of

intelligence and craftiness rather than relying on strength alone and die with great kleos

but in a young age.

Metis, a Greek term meaning cunning, intelligence, and proficiency with speech,

is demonstrated through Odysseus’s many exploits and presents him as a distinctive hero
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differing from others who simply use their brute strength to overcome their tasks. Books

9 to 12 are probably the most famous part of the Odyssey. The stories in these books are

recounted as fantasy and flashbacks by Odysseus to the Phaeacians. The wanderings of

Odysseus not only seem to give the readers knowledge about Odysseus’s use of metis but

to Odysseus’s audience as well. For instance, one of his threats in these books is possibly

his encounter with Polyphemus who tears two of Odysseus’s men “limb to limb,| To

make his supper” (Odyssey 9. 283-284). The strength and brutality of Polyphemus is

certainly unquestionable. However, Odysseus plans to draw his “sharp sword and [drive]

it home,| Into his chest…” (Odyssey 9.293). For they would all have perished if Odysseus

had drawn his sword since none but Polyphemus could shift the boulder which closes the

entrance of the cave. Odysseus clearly understands that he cannot overwhelm

Polyphemus and thus devises around his drawback by taking advantage of the Cyclops’

foolishness. Odysseus appears to realize the importance of trickery and its inseparable

connection with survival, which is contrasted with the sheer brute strength that the

Cyclops employs. Despite Odysseus uses strength to drill a stake into the single eye of

Polyphemus, this illustration of force may seem to be his part of plan to deceive the

savage.

In addition, Books 9 to 12 appear to have no divine figures intervening

Odysseus’s recreation of stories except in...

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