Hero Essay: Odysseus As A Tragic Hero

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Throughout The Odyssey there is a constant thread of learning and growing as the books progress. This development does not come easy, however, as emphasized through the long, dramatic tale and recounting done by Odysseus. But despite the struggle, Odysseus does indeed become a better man in numerous ways. By persevering throughout a multitude of heroic and tragic tasks from which few others could survive, Odysseus, ultimately finds a way to thrive. Odysseus is most definitely a hero—this is clear from the beginning of the epic—but he truly earns this title well after the Trojan War ends and his long, misguided travels begin. From “man of woe” (IV, 86) to “patient hero” (XXIII, 127) a change is evident in the man, the myth, and the legend who is Odysseus. This growth is perhaps most clearly emphasized in Book XX when Odysseus encounters his maidservants leaving their rooms at night to go to the suitors’ chambers. He sees these women betraying him and immediately anger overtakes him “like a wave,” urging him to “kill them” (XX, 10-11). He is so enraged by this traitorous act against not only himself but his beloved wife and son that he is ready to fly off the handle and end the treachery. If this event had occurred before Book XX, Odysseus most likely would have impulsively jumped into action and slaughtered the evildoers. But he doesn’t do this. Instead, he “mutter[s] to himself” (XX, 17). He takes counsel with himself and considers his actions before he prematurely reacts.
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