Use of Disguises in Odyssey
The characters' use of disguises in Homer's Odyssey is a crucial element that helps to catalyze the victory of good over evil. Each disguise is unique, created for a specific purpose. Before she talks to Telemachos, Athena disguises herself as a wise old man in order to ensure that her words carry weight and are taken seriously. She knows that she must assist and encourage Telemachos into searching for his long lost father without revealing her divine nature, so she assumes the guise of Mentor because men were generally given more credibility in those days. In a similar vein, Odysseus disguises himself as a homeless man in order to exude anonymity so that he can safely return to Ithaka where he slaughters the inconsiderate suitors. The characters' use of disguises is a key element that Homer utilizes to further the story as well as spice up the plot.
"Fame and fortune is the ultimate goal of any man"(Heubeck 21). One lives to strive for the best and conquer the world, metaphorically speaking for reaching his highest potential. "Although not everyone can achieve such high status, if a man can conquer a feat thus similar, his name can be passed on and he will be immortal" (Van der Valk 63). In Homer's Odyssey, the ultimate goal of fame and fortune entices Odysseus to disregard his morals by using cunning and trickery for lying and killing others, to ensure his homecoming to Ithaka.
First of all, Odysseus is deemed a hero in the eyes of the Achaians. His intelligent mind renders him a heroic figure among his people. Although he has killed many people, his actions are deemed justifiable because the suitors were "reckless" in their action against his household. He is praised by Athena for his ability to quickly devise a false tale. In the Achaian world, intelligence is more highly treasured then a hard working man. Odysseus' cleverness makes him "godlike" and comparable to the immortals, and he even had opportunities to be among the immortals, as exemplified by Kalypso's offer for eternal life and youth. Despite the fact that he is cheating on his wife, an unscrupulous act, Odysseus is still regarded as a great man; glorious and honorable.
Contrast to the modern American view of evil, Odysseus' blinding of Polyphemus is not an evil act, but rather one that is praised for its cleverness. Odysseus' "nobody" trick has proved to save his life. Although his goal was to survive, Odysseus abandoned his morals of honesty to accomplish the feat. By identifying himself as "nobody", he fooled Polyphemus, but he also hid his true identity, which is lying and deceiving. He actually degraded his manhood by disguising himself mentally. Ironically, Odysseus escapes not as a manly warrior, but rather as a sheep. After leaving the cave, he wants to redeem himself and his manhood. Revealing his name to Polyphemus...