Odysseus Defines an Epic Hero
On a website posted by teachers at Harker Heights High, an epic hero is someone who embodies the values of a particular society. He is superhuman. An epic hero is braver, stronger, and cleverer than an ordinary person. He is on a quest for something of great value to him or his people. The villains that try to keep the hero from his quest are usually uglier, more evil, and more cunning than anyone we know in ordinary life. The epic hero is often of mixed divine and human birth and so possesses human weaknesses. And finally, the divine world often interferes with the human world in the hero's quest. In the Odyssey, by Homer and translated by Robert Fitzgerald, Odysseus embodies everything that is an epic hero, aside from being a mix of the divine and human birth. The story of The Odyssey is not just of Odysseus' journey from Troy to Ithaka, but also one of his journey from a sometimes foolish and almost immature warrior to an epic hero.
In book IX, Odysseus begins his tale of his trip from Troy to Phaiakia.
What of those years of rough adventure weathered under Zeus? The wind that carried west from Ilion brought me to Ismaros, on the far shore, a strongpoint on the coast of the Kikones. I stormed the place and killed the men who fought. Plunder we took, and we enslaved the women…(9.146)
The beginning of this tale displays the warrior who left Troy. He and his crew immediately go to battle and take control of the city. Although afterwards Odysseus recalls telling his men to stop and return to the ship, he never actually forcibly tried to make his men return, because at the time it was more about the victory of a battle then the message or values that were being fought for. Odysseus should have taken control and forced his men back, not doing so only got them driven out of the city and could have caused another battle. This episode shows Odysseus' slightly immature nature.
Odysseus and his crew's imprisonment with the Cyclops, Polyphemos, show signs of his epic hero characteristics, bravery and trickery, but at the same time signs of his immature and foolish side, his human weaknesses. Odysseus takes out the eye of the Cyclops saving the lives of himself and his remaining crew. But later, after getting free and setting sail, Odysseus taunts Polyphemos proudly stating who he is and that he was the one who took out his eye. Polyphemos then gets his father, Poseidon, god of the sea, to invoke rage in the sea causing his journey home to be set off course and prolonged once again.
Odysseus' journey to Hades, the land of the dead, shows a symbolic death for Odysseus and a later "rebirth." Here he meets with Teiresias who warns him of his later journeys and cautions him of his eventual return home to Ithaka where there is great danger and chaos for him. After this event Odysseus is more inclined to return home; He takes all of the advise and wisdom he has been given and realizes...