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Odysseus as a Hero

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The blinding sunlight. The outline of pride and courage. Veins straining from the bulging muscles. Dodging every obstacle, when men cower in fear, a figure of greatness and leader of courage strives to return home. In Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, Odysseus, the central character of the epic, applies his strengths, leadership skills and his determination to reach his abode escaping from flesh eating one-eyed mammoths, arrogant betrayers, and violent whirlpool and sea monsters. Odysseus and his crew face the impossible challenges on his voyage back home, but with Odysseus’ leadership, they prevail. Approaching Scylla and Charybdis, a violent storm and sea monster, the crew trembles in fear, doubting their ability. Odysseus, never second-guessing, asks, “Friends, have we never been in danger before this? More fearsome, is it now, than when the Cyclops penned us in his cave” (766-768), inspiring the hopeless men. With his strong authority, they prepare for the wrath of the ferocious Scylla and Charybdis. When they reach the cattle of the sun god, Odysseus warns his crew, “Old shipmates, out stores are in the ship’s hold, food and drink; the cattle here are not for our provision or we pay dearly for it” (838-840), but Eurylochus, a stubborn crew member, convinces the rest of the crew otherwise. Warning his crew and keeping them from danger embodies a trait of a true leader. By the time Odysseus reaches home he catches a glimpse of his weary dog, Argus. Each and every day, he reaches one step towards death, “but when he [knows] he [hears] Odysseus’ voice nearby he did his best to wag his tail, nose down, with flattened ears, having no strength to move nearer his master” (1176-1179). Since he was a little pup, Odysseus trained him well raising Argus. Training and nurturing his pup represents how Argus obeys and respects Odysseus and Odysseus towers over Argus as his master. Odysseus, a true leader, embodies the shadow of an epic hero by being in charge and top dog on his ship. With Odysseus’ wits and physical ability, he conquers the challenges he faces testing his skills, patience, and cunning. Before he reaches the island of the Lotus-Eaters, he loses six benches of men fighting the outnumbering Cicones. When arriving on a new island he uses his wits by, “ [sending] out two picked men and a runner to learn what the race of men that land sustained” (92-93), knowing he could not lose any more of his crew. The Cyclops, Polyphemus, challenges Odysseus penning him in his cave. Odysseus devises a plan to escape. First, he introduces himself, “Everyone [calls] me Nohbdy” (315-316). When Polyphemus drinks the liquor Odysseus offers, the strength of the liquor knocks him out letting Odysseus blind his vision. When Polyphemus calls for help to the other Cyclopes, he roars that “nobody” struck him, leaving the other mammoths bewildered. Thinking ahead, the name works perfectly and his intelligence proves to be successful in his determination to escape. When Odysseus finally reaches home, he hears many suitors beg for Penelope’s hand in marriage. Leader of the arrogant suitors, Antinous, throws a chair at Odysseus, who dissembles as a beggar by Athena. Testing Odysseus’ patience, Odysseus stands silently keeping in his wrath. With his skill, Odysseus shoots Antinous effortlessly. Odysseus takes revenge with no doubts and “Odysseus’ arrow hit him under the chin and punched up to the feathers through his throat” (1419-25), causing a stream of bitter blood. With wise thinking and archery precision, Odysseus saves most of his men from Polyphemus’ treachery, the Lotus-Eaters, and reunites with his love, Penelope. Odysseus’ leadership and strength aids him in his time of need, but his determination represents the foundation of his arrival home. The Cyclops’ cave challenges Odysseus’ skills, intellect, and physical ability. With willpower “[Odysseus] drew on all [his] wits and ran through tactics, reasoning as a man will for dear life, until a trick came- and it pleased [him] well” (373-377), giving him the chance to escape. Saving his men by hiding under the bellies of rams, they fled Calypso Island. When they breakout, Polyphemus curses Odysseus, “Let him lose all companions and return under strange sail to bitter days at home” (492-493), but that did not stop Odysseus and his crew. To restore order to Ithaca, Odysseus needs his beauty, Penelope, but when he returns after twenty years, Athena notifies Odysseus about suitors overflowing his house for the hand of Penelope. With pride and not willing to give up, “[he] came to this wild place, directed by Athena, so that [they] might lay plans to kill [their] enemies” (1080-1084), determined to capture Penelope’s heart again even disguised as an old beggar. Determination got Odysseus home to his family with joyful days at home finishing his hero’s journey. Guiding the way home, Odysseus’ leadership inspires and motivates his crew. Learning from his mistakes, his intellectual ability keeps him from trouble. Physical strength makes him all-powerful like any other hero, but his strength of mind, like a bow, binds all his abilities together to come home safely after 20 years. Odysseus, the true epic hero of The Odyssey, embodies strength, leadership, and determination, vital to conquering every obstacle to reach home to his son, Telemachus, his loyal wife, Penelope and his kingdom.

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