Hero Comparison Essay: Odysseus vs Gandhi

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Hero Comparison Essay

K A K

16/12/2011

A hero, a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability (Merriam-Webster). There are two types of heroes, epic heroes and modern heroes. Odysseus, one of the most famous epic heroes ever, will be compared to Mahatma Gandhi, a modern day hero, to see if there really is a large gap separating the two types. However, one thing is certain, modern heroes can be identical to epic heroes if they are larger than life, embody the ideals of their culture, embark on a perilous journey, and possess super-human, prominent characteristics.

Epic heroes are always larger than life; however, modern day heroes can achieve amazing feats too. Odysseus, an epic hero, demonstrated this through the gods’ interference with his affairs. Poseidon played a major role in knocking Odysseus off course (Applebee, 912). Also, he is so famous, that people all over Greece know him. For instance, the Phaeacians sung about Odysseus’ triumph in Troy to Odysseus just a couple of years after it happened (Mythweb). Gandhi, my hero, achieved independence for his country using only nonviolent protest. This is shown by the “Salt March”, in which he embarked on a 240 mile march, protesting about the British salt tax, which made it illegal to sell or produce salt, allowing a complete British monopoly (Thenagain). Also, he has quotes that will live on forever, such as, “Where there is love there is life”, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, and, “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind” (Proverbia). These quotes are some of the most used and repeated quotes of all time. In different ways, Odysseus and Gandhi are both larger than life, proving that epic heroes and modern day heroes aren’t very different after all.

Another characteristic of epic heroes would be how they embody the ideals of their culture. In “The Odyssey”, Odysseus warns Polyphemus, a giant, man-eating cyclops, that it would face Zeus’ wrath if he doesn’t treat him nicely (Applebee, 902). This shows us how the Greeks care a lot about a healthy host-guest relationship and vice-versa. The latter is proven when Odysseus slaughters the suitors who didn’t behave well at his castle in his absence (Applebee, 955-960). Also, having their lives spared, the two shepherds were rewarded for remaining loyal to Odysseus, proving that the Greeks admire those who are loyal (Applebee, 947-948). Gandhi, on the other hand, embodies the nonviolence of his culture. Within a month of him simply gathering salt from a beach in Dandi, people all over India were making salt illegally, and more than 100,000 were sent to jail; many fell victim to police violence, but none retaliated or even defended themselves (Herman, 99-101). In fact, as the wise Mahatma once said, “Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up”. Gandhi also embodies the humbleness of his people. In fact, a man wearing Gandhi’s picture around his neck considered Gandhi to be the sole cause of his recovery from paralysis (since he recovered after uttering the Mahatma’s name). Seeing this, Gandhi said, “It is not I but God who made you whole. Now will you not oblige me by taking my photograph off your neck” (Fischer, 288-289). This shows Gandhi doesn’t view himself as more than another average man, an amazing trait. Embodying the values in ones culture is also another shared aspect between epic heroes and modern day heroes, narrowing the rift between the two kinds even more.

An epic hero always embarks on a long perilous journey. “The Odyssey”, describes Odysseus’ journey home in a very detailed way. Odysseus faces many dangers on the way, including Polyphemus, a ferocious, one-eyed giant, Circé, a deceptive enchantress, and two sea monsters, Scylla and Charybdis. Polyphemus was a big threat to Odysseus and his crew because he was going to devour all of them, ending their journey (Applebee,...
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