Heroism In The Odyssey

1332 Words6 Pages
Heroism, tends to be difficult to define and remarkably ambiguous in literary works. In the Odyssey, however, Homer clearly defines a hero as a humble, determined, and loyal individual; thus, according to Homer, it is not enough to claim to be a hero, but it is also important to exhibit those qualities that Homer values as heroism. Odysseus, despite claiming heroism, upholds these traits inconsistently, as seen in his taunting of Polyphemus. In contrast, Telemachus, Odysseus’ overlooked son, dramatically grows up over the course of the epic and ultimately reveals his truly heroic qualities by the end of the poem. Thus, because Odysseus claims to be a hero, but fails to remain humble, determined, and loyal throughout the epic, he is not a hero.…show more content…
First, because Odysseus’ “master strokes” allow his crew to escape from Polyphemus and he “command[s] a dozen vessels,” Odysseus claims responsibility for his crew’s successful escape, and thus, Odysseus claims to be the hero in this section (216). Next, Odysseus’ hubris and disloyalty in this scene highlight the flaws in Homer’s depiction of Odysseus as a hero. First, despite his crew “begging” Odysseus to stop taunting Polyphemus' he does not revealing his disloyalty to his crew and pride. However, in spite of his actions, Homer describes Odysseus as “headstrong”—a positive and complimentary word for selfish actions. Also, to dramatize the situation and emphasize the morality of the crew, Homer says "[the crew] put their backs in the oars, escape grim death." This passage shows how, while Homer considers Odysseus heroic, Odysseus may not follow expectations because of his pride and willingness to endanger his men. In this passage, Odysseus continually taunts Polyphemus' against his crew's wishes, and thus risks their lives. However, throughout the reading, Odysseus' claims to have great affection for his crew and wishes to protect them; thus, Odysseus' actions in this scene highlight an inconsistency in Odysseus' character and heroic nature. Because of this inconsistency and Odysseus’ prideful and…show more content…
Prior to the speech Menelaus has no urgency and respect for Telemachus'; he says “I'll escort you myself, harness the horses, guide you through the the towns,” which together imply that Telemachus should not travel by himself because he is still a boy (384). Directly after and because of “that” speech, however, Menelaus says “he told his wife and serving-women to lay out a meal at once,” and subsequently wishes Telemachus safe travels home (384). This contrast shows the effectiveness of Telemachus speech and, because the speech convinces Menelaus’ that Telemachus is capable of traveling by himself, reveals Telemachus’ maturity. Telemachus willingness to single handedly push himself to manhood, in times of personal and familial crisis, stresses his determination. Notably, all the compliments of Telemachus in this scene were from Menelaus and not Homer, once again revealing Homer’s
Open Document