Odysseus: The Flawed Hero Essay

1664 words - 7 pages

" Odysseus: The Flawed Hero

“Oh for shame, how the mortals put the blame on us gods, for they say evils come from us, but it is they, rather, who by their own recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given,” (1.32-34) is a simple quote reminding us the entities in charge of all characters in the poem The Odyssey – the gods. Hubris, or excessive human pride, is most detested by the gods and likewise is most punishable by them. The Odyssey is a story about Odysseus and Telemachus, two heroes who throughout their adventures meet new people and face death many times. Telemachus goes to find his father after he learns from Athena that he is still alive. The two meet, and Odysseus attempts to go back to Ithaca after he was lost at sea, and on his way there becomes one of the most heroic characters in literature as we know it. Like all heroic characters, Odysseus began to display hubris as he learned how true of a hero he was. James Wyatt Cook, a historian and an expert on The Odyssey, wrote about how hubris can affect the characters that display it. He says, “Because Homer’s Odyssey is essentially comic, that episode [opened wind bag destroys ship] is only one of a series of setbacks Odysseus experiences before reaching his home in Ithaca and recovering his former kingdom and his family. Such, however, is not the case for those who display hubris with tragic outcomes.” (Cook 1) Initially, Odysseus learns about Aias who died as a cause of the excessive pride he portrays. Proteus warns Odysseus when he says, “…and Aias would have escaped doom, though Athena hated him, had he not gone widely mad and tossed outa word of defiance; for he said that in despite of the gods he escaped the great gulf of the sea, and Poseidon heard him…and at once with his ponderous hands catching up the trident he drove it against the Gyrean rock.” (4.502-511) Characters who display hubris in The Odyssey receive punishment by the gods, but Odysseus learns from his mistakes as he becomes more of a hero and lessens his pride.
Odysseus displays the biggest form of hubris when blinding the son of one of the most powerful gods in the Greek culture. Odysseus and his men go to Polyphemus’ island where they meet the strange one-eyed Cyclops. After talking, he becomes angry. The men flee, and Odysseus blinds Polyphemus. However, rather than leaving, Odysseus feels the need to let Polyphemus know it was him who blinded him. He says, “Cyclops, if any mortal man ever asks who it was that inflicted upon your eye this shameful blinding, tell him that you were blinded by Odysseus, sacker of the cities. Laertes is his father, and he makes his home in Ithaca.” (9.500-505) Essentially, Odysseus is saying that it was him who blinded the monster, and no one else did it. He accomplished the impossible, therefore, is the hero. He does not consider the fact that Polyphemus will eventually tell his father, Poseidon. This will cause the god of the sea to forever hold a grudge against...

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