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Heroism In Homer's Odyssey

Powerful Essays
Saving Others, Selflessly The word “hero” usually brings to mind a knight slaying a dragon or a firefighter rescuing someone from a burning building. But does one have to save a life to be considered a hero? Oftentimes, we assume that heroism is limited to physical bravery. This term, however, implies the notion of helping and inspiring others: a teacher cultivating a love for learning or a paraplegic Olympian reaching out to youth with disabilities. Because heroes range from Olympians to teachers, not all are famous--in fact, many remain unrecognized. Whether it is the volunteer raising money to end world hunger or the activist rallying against social injustice, they serve out of a genuine desire to help, not to be recognized. Some heroes…show more content…
For example, Homer’s Odyssey depicts Odysseus, as the archetype of Greek heroes: handsome, clever, and valiant. Regardless of his charm, Odysseus lacks character. For instance, he fails to hasten home to his wife-- and not just because of sea monsters and storms. Narrating Odysseus’ stay with the goddess, Calypso, Homer writes: “The sweet days of his lifetime were running out in anguish over his exile, for long ago the nymph had ceased to please. Though he fought shy of her and her desire, he lay with her each night” (79-83). This quote tells us how Odysseus tires from his sabbatical with Calypso, despite the fact that he chose to remain there for seven years. Lingering on her island, Odysseus, like a truant deserting school, ignores his quest for home. As Homer describes that Odysseus “fought shy of her,” he means that Odysseus was reluctant to relent. But then he gave in anyway. As he prioritizes his own wants, Odysseus exposes his egotistical motives--to indulge himself although his wife agonizes over his disappearance. When Odysseus finally reunites with his wife, he empathizes with her grief, yet his hypocrisy is evident, as “he lay with her [Calypso] each night”. His actions show his true identity: he is irresolute, inauthentic, and…show more content…
While at another king’s court, Odysseus recalls his encounter with Scylla, the six-headed monster. He explains, “But as I sent them on toward Scylla, I told them nothing, as they could do nothing. They would have dropped their oars again, in panic, to roll for cover under the decking” (790-793). Odysseus is essentially telling his audience that because the situation was hopeless, he chose not to relay the death trap to his men. The Greek definition of a hero emphasizes a person who defends his people, whereas the modern connotation of the word points to someone who exerts an effort to ease others’ struggles. Fearing that they would mutiny, Odysseus withheld the truth from the crew--then tries to justify his choice saying his men would “roll for cover under the decking”. Odysseus, in his apathy with regard to the crisis, did not want to have to manage his crew’s fear. That is not to say that Odysseus is a one dimensional man; he does, at times, persist when saving his men from the Cyclops. In another instance, he ensures his crew’s safety from the sirens who try to lure them away. Despite his occasional concern for others, Odysseus’ overall decisions reflect a lack of concern for others--and consequently, lack of
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