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The Odyssey: Odysseus’ heroic/frail qualities Essay

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A hero might typically be described as a courageous person who has the strength of a warrior and a leader to triumph in battles. However, a hero may also be someone who uses his brain just as much as he uses his brawn. In ‘The Odyssey’ by Homer, Odysseus embodies the ideal human qualities that Homer’s Greek society respect: bravery, nobility and intelligence. Despite these attributes, he has a tragic flaw that brings demise and destruction over his journey and his men.

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Although at times his actions bring suffering to others, the courageous and assiduous Odysseus displays many admirable traits.

The one and only tragic flaw of the eminent epic hero is that he possesses an excessive amount of pride. Since his status stands as the renowned warrior of the Trojan War, he requires much dignity to support his heroic background. For example, when Odysseus escapes from the dreaded Cyclops with his men, he shouts his name and boasts in victory to have his legacy grow. This action presents his hubris because he jeers and brags that he has indeed defeated the one-eyed monster, “Kyklops, if ever moral man inquire how you were put to shame and blinded, tell him Odysseus, raider of cities, took your eye…”(IX, 548 – 551). His insults to Polyphemus eventually brings misfortunes and catastrophic disasters on his journey back to Ithaca. Odysseus lessens his heroism value by this because he puts his group and himself in danger, which contradicts the traits of a hero. He should have considered the consequences and the jeopardy of revealing his true identity to Kyklops.

A characteristic that plays an immense role in Odysseus is his courage. Throughout his journey back to Ithaca, his bravery and swiftness save him and his crew from monsters such as the Cicones, the Kyklops and the Laestrygonians. His courage is tested to the extreme when he, a mere mortal, challenges the Kyklops, an immortal giant, the son of Poseidon. Even though Odysseus fights bravely in the entire Trojan War, he experiences long years of turmoil before finally uniting with his family, Penelope and Telemachus. Despite his longing for his family, he continues to guide his homesick crew with his heroic characteristics.

Odysseus avoids many tough situations with his cunning and intelligence. He uses these skills to lead his group to victory and out of trouble from deadly monsters. For example, his crafty and clever idea of the Trojan horse directs the Greeks to a successful triumph over the Romans when they least expected an ambush. Also, with quick thinking, Odysseus rescues his loyal crew from the Lotus-eaters by tying them “down under their rowing benches” (IX,106) and ordering his men to “clear the beach and no one taste the Lotus, or…lose…hope of home” (IX,108-109).

Odysseus demonstrates his cleverness when he intoxicates Polyphemus with mellow wine and uses “Nobody” as his alias. The epic hero then blinds the giant and hides under the belly of rams to flee from the cave as soon as Dawn appears. These actions of Odysseus represent his intelligence and his abilities to defeat even the threatening monsters.

As the epic continues, the characteristics of Odysseus that make him an outstanding hero become obvious: his courage, his leadership and his sharp intellect. He always leads successful victories, disregarding the severity of the obstacles. Even with a tragic flaw, he manages to overcome his challenges and tribulations with strength and wisdom to be called indeed, the greatest hero of all times.

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