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Hero in The Odyssey: The Unheroic Traits of Odysseus in Homer's Epic

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Hero in The Odyssey: The Unheroic Traits of Odysseus in Homer's Epic Essay

Selflessness, trustworthiness, and sacrificial may be words to describe a hero. In The Odyssey by Homer, despite being portrayed as a hero, Odysseus’ actions seemed to prove otherwise. He shows very minimal traits of being a hero, and thinks more so of himself than others.

First, Odysseus is not considered a hero in the sense that he had blinded a cyclops, Polyphemus, the son of Poseiden, after tricking him. The conflict began when Odysseus and his men arrived at the land of Kyklopes and upon discovering Polyphemus’ cavern, they entered uninvited and rudely ate his food. When Polyphemus arrived, Odysseus lied and threatened him if he failed to treat his ‘guests’ properly. Odysseus should be sued for the damage he created while trespassing in Polyphemus’ home because he took advantage of Polyphemus and violated a breaking and entering law.

While Odysseus and his men were trespassing in Polyphemus’ home, they took advantage of Polyphemus in many ways. First, Odysseus tricked Polyphemus, “Kyklops, try some wine” and waited for “fuddle and flush to come over him” (Homer 155). By offering Polyphemus wine and proceeding to serve three large bowls of the intoxicating liquor, Odysseus intended to confuse a drunk Polyphemus, and that is precisely what he did. Odysseus and his men then took a hand spike and “rammed it deep in his crater eye” after successfully drunkening Polyphemus. Not only did Odysseus assault Polyphemus, he also took advantage of his unconscious state to harm him. When Polyphemus abruptly awoke, Odysseus foolishly taunted him, “My name is Nohbody….everyone calls me Nohbody” (Homer 156). This was another example of Odysseus taking advantage of Polyphemus because he cruelly deceived Polyphemus into believing his name was Nohbody and when Polyphemus called on his fellow Kyklopes for help, he was made to sound ridiculous, proclaiming ‘Nohbody’ had attacked him.

In addition to Odysseus taking advantage of Polyphemus, he and his men also violated his privacy by breaking and entering his cavern. After confirming that Polyphemus wasn’t home, Odysseus refused to leave, proclaiming, “I wished to see the caveman, what he had to offer” (Homer 151). Despite Polyphemus not being home, Odysseus expressed to his men that regardless the situation, he was entering the cavern uninvited simply because he wanted to confront the Kyklops when he returned. In fact, Odysseus and his men “took some cheese to eat” while waiting for Polyphemus to return. Odysseus acted improperly by taking food from Polyphemus without permission. Furthermore, when Odysseus escaped, he “rounded up his sheep to take aboard” (Homer 159). Not only did he steal Polyphemus’ food, Odysseus also stole his beloved flock of sheep.

While it may be argued that Polyphemus is to blame because he devoured some of Odysseus’ men and refused to allow Odysseus and his men to leave, Odysseus created the entire conflict by foolishly remaining on the island and entering Polyphemus’ home. If Odysseus hadn’t trespassed and eaten his food, Polyphemus would never have had the need to eat his men for meals or prevent Odysseus and his men from escaping. Odysseus is being rightly accused and he should be sued for the damage he created in Polyphemus’ home and for his inhumane acts of cruelty. Instead of choosing to wait for the Kyklops or leaving his land, Odysseus and his men walked straight into danger by breaking and entering Polyphemus’ cavern. Odysseus also cruelly deceived and took advantage of Polyphemus while in his home. All of Odysseus’ actions were far from heroic and he created much more trouble for himself by angering the Kyklops.

In addition to the stabbing of the Cyclops, once Odysseus had returned home, Odysseus had killed suitors that were to be welcomed into their home according to Greek customs. In lines 1412-1420, Odysseus “drew to his fistthe cruel head of an arrow for Antinous…Odysseus’ arrow hit him under the chin and punched up to the feathers through his throat.” Odysseus had aimed straight for Antinous, and hit him right in the throat with the arrow. You may argue that Odysseus had done this to protect his wife or from the ridicule Odysseus received from the suitors, but in the time period of the Greek’s, it was important to make anyone who came to your home feel welcomed, and as Odysseus was disguised as a beggar, it made sense that the suitors may have ridiculed him. Additionally, Odysseus had “looked around him…for any others who had lain hidden…he saw that crowd had all fallen”. Odysseus had killed all the suitors that had been associated with Antinous, and had made sure they were all killed and none hidden.

Lastly, Odysseus is not a hero in the way that he had deceived and sacrificed his men on their journey. In lines 783-785, Odysseus says “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.” Odysseus had deceived his men by not telling them what troubles lied ahead of them as he believed nothing could save the men from Scylla, instead of fighting the creature all together or demonstrating a plan on how to possibly distract or kill Scylla. Additionally, in lines 809-814, Odysseus says “Then Scylla made her strike, whisking six of my best men from the ship..caught sight of their arms and legs, dangling high and overhead. Voices came down to me in anguish, calling my name for the last time.” But as Odysseus knew that this was coming, he sacrificed six of his men by sailing past Scylla instead of risking being sucked into the whirlpool.

Through the multiple events that killed many, the reader can find Odysseus guilty of unheroic traits. Odysseus had thought of protecting himself and risking the lives of his men and had killed the suitors after their ridicule and attempting to take his wife. His selfishness, untrustworthiness, and lack of sacrifice had put Odysseus in a position of power, but not as a hero.

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The Impact of the Disregard of One’s Privacy. (2022, December 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from
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