The Journey Home: What Makes A Hero

2522 words - 10 pages

The Journey Home: What Makes a Hero

What constitutes an epic story? Certainly, literary expectations have come to define a story as a series of events revolving around one or more characters. An epic, however, must possess one attribute that a story may or may not contain; a hero. The Odyssey is an epic and therefore, it does contain a hero and perhaps even more than one. A hero cannot simply just exist, though, he or she must be shaped into the role through a series of adventures and misadventures that help the reader sympathize and identify with the hero’s progress towards a specific goal. The Odyssey proves no exception as the hero Odysseus’ ultimate goal of returning home to his beloved Ithaca is hindered by a sequence of events that create the story. Although his own contribution to delaying his return home must not be overlooked, it is primarily the desire of the gods which greatly affects Odysseus progress towards Ithaca.

Although not as prominent as the roles of the Gods, Odysseus’ own actions do impact his journey home, even if it is only negatively. Odysseus is a proud man and at numerous points during The Odyssey his ego derails efforts to return to Ithaca. Perhaps this is clearest when Odysseus and his men land upon the island of Aeaea. Home to the beautiful goddess Circe, Odysseus and his men are initially oblivious to the perils of the enchanting island. After a band of Odysseus’ men are tricked and turned into pigs by the goddess, though, Odysseus is warned of a similar fate and subsequently confronts and threatens to kill the goddess. Instead, however, Circe begs to lie with Odysseus and even swears an oath insisting there is no more hidden mischief in store for Odysseus and his crew. While the reader may then be relieved to learn that Odysseus’ crew is safely returned to human form and treated with enormous hospitality, a curious thing happens. Odysseus decides he and his crew will delay their progress towards Ithaca for a year in order to take pleasure in all that Circe’s palace offers. The same loyal husband whose only ambition since the end of the Trojan Wars has been to return to Ithaca and once again gaze into the eyes of his beautiful Penelope now appears more interested in pleasing his manly urges and desires. Where as Odysseus is held as an emotionally distressed captive on the nymph Calypso’s island, he almost embraces his sexual relationship with Circe and the bountiful feasts he and his men receive. Conveniently absent is the heart wrenching sadness and gloom that engulfs Odysseus while with Calypso. It takes the questioning of a crew member, in fact, to persuade Odysseus it is time to resume their journey home. ‘“What possesses you to stay on here? It’s time you thought of Ithaca,” persists the crew (Homer 137). Only then seeming to realize his selfishness, Odysseus agrees to resume the journey towards Ithaca. Although not as substantial, other examples exist of Odysseus delaying his...

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