In Homer’s famous epic poem The Odyssey he displays the characters with a wide variety of morals. These morals influence decisions made by them which provide a looking glass for the reader to see their true nature. In a certain scene, the characters discuss Odysseus to what seems to be a beggar; however, the beggar is truly Odysseus in disguise. One way to clearly test a person’s character is through an idea provided by Bob Sutton: “The best judge of character is how he or she treats those with less power” (Sutton). Melanthius, Philoetius, and Ctesippus all are examples of how Sutton’s theory applies to people. Through making observations on how the selected characters act when speaking with the disguised Odysseus a solid conclusion can be made on their overall character.
The goatherd Melanthius at first can appear mean and vicious; moreover, he remains loyal to Odysseus by disrespecting the person, whom he perceived to be a beggar. Melanthius is tired of seeing a beggar in the halls of Odysseus’ home and finally decides to confront him about it. “Still alive? Still hounding your betters, begging round the house? Why don’t you cart yourself away? Get out!” (20). Melanthius shows no sympathy for the seemingly impoverished beggar. He has no idea that the beggar is in fact his own master, Odysseus. He violates traditional Ancient Greek hospitality towards guests.
When this scene is applied to Sutton’s theory, Melanthius’ character is revealed as harsh and vicious. The fact that Melanthius is upset with how suitors and beggars are intruding on Odysseus’ land may play into his stern confrontation with the lingering beggar. Melanthius has no way of knowing that the beggar was in fact Odysseus; therefore, he exposes his true character when he acts as though he is confronting someone of lesser power.
In contrast, when Philoetius, the good cowherd, approaches Eumaeus (the disguised Odysseus) he is extremely respectful. Although he has no clue who Eumaeus is, he still treats him like he has met him before: “Cheers, old friend, old father, here’s to your luck, great days from this day on saddled now as you are with so much trouble” (20). Before approaching the beggar Philoetius said to himself “What roots does this man claim-who are his people? . . . Poor beggar” (20). Clearly Philoetius has no idea who Odysseus is and thinks he is just a homeless man on Odysseus’ land. Despite these ideas in his head he still treats Eumaeus with the utmost respect and even wished him luck. The beggar appears to certainly be on a lower level that Philoetius according to standards of power; however, Philoetius demonstrates excellent character when speaking with him, for he disregards the social difference. Ctesippus, being a suitor, is different from the other two characters.
From the beginning it is clear he thinks highly of himself. “Ctesippus was his name, he made his home in Same, a fellow so impressed with his own astounding wealth he courted the wife of Odysseus” (20). Despite the fact that Telemachus orders the suitors to respect his visitor (Eumaeus), Ctesippus does not obey. “Grabbing an oxhoof out of a basket where it lay, with a brawny hand he flung it straight at the king” (20). Ctesippus has no way of knowing the beggar he has just attacked is actually his king, the great Odysseus. Since Ctesippus thinks that Odysseus is nothing more than a poor visitor, he does not act respectfully towards him. Ctesippus is never seen being rude to his fellow suitors; however he is extremely disrespectful to someone of lower power.
This reflects on his aggressive and disobeying character. Sutton’s theory can be used to give an accurate conclusion about a character. Between the three characters different actions are made which reflect that personal character’s morals. The morals in the core of each character are easily revealed by how they treated the disguised Odysseus. None of the characters have any way of identifying Eumaeus as their king, so there appears to be no problem with treating him poorly. One must always remember that things might not be as they seem. That should be kept in mind before making drastic actions or poor decisions. It is important to think clearly before treating someone of lesser power poorly, just because of their power status or initial appearance. If a truly wholesome good character is desired, truly good choices and actions should be made.
Courtney from Study Moose
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