The Odyssey: the Use of Hubris

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  • Topic: Odyssey, Cyclops, Poseidon
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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"There is no safety in unlimited hubris" (McGeorge Bundy). The dictionary defines hubris as overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance. In The Odyssey, Homer embodies hubris into the characters Odysseus, the Suitors, and the Cyclopes. Odysseus shows hubris when he is battling the Cyclopes, the Cyclopes show hubris when dealing with Odysseus, and the Suitors show it when Odysseus confronts them at his home.

To start, within the course of The Odyssey, Odysseus displays hubris through many of his actions. The most prominent instance in which Odysseus shows hubris is while he and his men are trying to escape from the Cyclops Polyphemus. They drug the monster until it passes out, and then stab him with a timber in his single eye. Polyphemus, now blinded, removes the gigantic boulder blocking Odysseus' escape, and waits for the men to move, so he can kill them. The men escape from the cave to their boat by tying themselves under flocks of rams, so they can easily slip by. Odysseus, now proud after beating the giant, starts to yell at Polyphemus, instead of making a silent escape. Odysseus' men ask him to stop before Polyphemus would "get the range and lob a boulder" (436). But Odysseus shows hubris by saying that if they were to meet again, Odysseus would "take your life" and "hurl you down to hell!" (462; 463). Polyphemus, now extremely angry with Odysseus, prays to his father, Poseidon, to make Odysseus "never see his home" again, and after which, throws a mountain towards the sound of Odysseus' voice. (470). Because of Odysseus' hubris after blinding Polyphemus, Poseidon grants the prayer, and it takes Odysseus 20 years to return home, at the cost of the lives of all his men.

Next, Polyphemus demonstrates hubris by believing that because he is a giant, he is unbeatable by anyone, even a god. This is shown when Odysseus meets Polyphemus and greets him with gifts, as it is a custom to show courtesy to hosts and guests alike, (unexpected or not)....
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