The Odyssey, written by Homer and translated by Robert Fagles, is an epic poem focused on Odysseus, an Ithacan soldier, and his journey that helps him grow as a hero. Odysseus makes idiotic mistakes that end up costing his crewmembers’ lives. His immature ways are sometimes interrupted by occasional courageous acts, but do not outweigh the negative ones. Even though he possesses some hero archetype qualities, Odysseus is not a hero. One way Odysseus proves himself to not be a hero by having an affair with Calypso while married. “And now, withdrawing into the cavern’s deep recesses, long in each other’s arms they lost themselves in love.” (250,159) This shows that even though Odysseus is so eager to get home to his family, he is willing to make love with another woman instead of staying faithful, like a hero would.
We are also shown this through his acts in the Cyclops’s cave. Although he was warned by fellow shipmates to leave the island as soon as possible, Odysseus refuses to leave with the thought of being able to stay there and feast on the food found in the cave of the Cyclops, Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon. Polyphemus is at first a polite host, until the men overstay their welcome. The Cyclops then blocks the exit from the cave so Odysseus and his crew may not leave, but not before killing some of the shipmates. “Lurching up, he lunged out with his hands towards my men and snatched two at once, rapping them on the ground he knocked them dead like pups—“ (325, 220) This shows that if Odysseus had not acted selfishly by staying in the cave, his crewmates would be alive.
A final example of Odysseus not fulfilling the hero archetype is when he refuses to trust his men and does not tell them the content of the bag of winds. This causes the men to come up with the idea that the bag holds riches of coins and treasures. The men are so close to home they can see people on the shore, but the men are too curious and open the bag of winds. Upon the opening of this bag, the ship of Odysseus is then sent back to sea. “They loosed the sack and all the winds burst out and sudden squall struck and swept us back to sea, wailing, in tears, far from our own native land.” (53, 232)
This tragedy could have been avoided had Odysseus shared with the shipmates what was being contained in this bag, instead of being secretive and trying to be the man of the hour. In conclusion, Odysseus may be learning from the mistakes he has made and growing as a hero, but is not at all a hero yet. He makes decisions based on selfish desires that cost many lives throughout the story. A hero is supposed to support his peers and stand up for what is right instead of making choices based on what he wants, and Odysseus does not. Although Odysseus may be perceived as a hero through many readers’ eyes of The Odyssey, he is not at all a hero.
Courtney from Study Moose
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