In “The Odyssey,” a epic poem, translated by Robert Fagles, Odysseus represents an archetype that resonates in our culture today. I believe that Odysseus represents an archetype of a hero. Odysseus was well-known for being the King of Ithaca, his wife Penelope, occupied the suitors for many years while Odysseus went to fight at Troy. I believe that Odysseus is a hero but not an ideal one and that we should not accept his heroic conventions because many of his actions throughout the story make me believe the fact that he is too harsh at many times.
Odysseus’s actions in Book 22 represent show his cruelness to others. For example, when Odysseus trapped and killed the suitors, which is completely understandable, he also forced the maids to clean the blood and then he killed them. The maids were completely innocent, even though they sided with the suitors, they didn’t have a choice and at that moment there was no other choice then to listen to the suitors. I believe that the way Odysseus treated the maids, even after they betrayed him, was cruel and harsh and that this represent the merciless attitude of Odysseus.
Another good example of Odysseus’s non-heroic conventions is in Book 9, is when Odysseus stays to see the Cyclops, Odysseus just wants to brag about having a gift from the Cyclops. If he either stole some food, as his men persuaded him to, or just leave without food, lives would have been saved. Many men were murdered by the Cyclops because of Odysseus’s pride.
Throughout the story, Odysseus is on a journey, and his wife, Penelope, is at home keeping the suitors “occupied.” In many oppurtunities, Odysseus cheats on Penelope, which doesn’t represent and heroic attributes because honesty is one of them. Odysseus cheats on his wife many times with Circe and Calypso. Even though Odysseus was “unhappy” with Calypso, he was forced to sleep with her at night, but I’m sure he didn’t complain too much about being forced into it. To add on to Odysseus’s dishonesty, “Odysseus stayed with Calypso for seven years.” In modern times cheating is much more serious, the act of it, even back then, is nothing to be proud of and does definitely not represent honesty.
Odysseus and Penelope by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein
Another notable example of Odysseus’s non-heroic actions is when after he stabs Polyphemus, the cyclops, in the eye, he ends up escaping but Odysseus shouts back to the cyclops giving away his position and almost causing the ship to wreck. A hero, puts others in front of him, Odysseus put his ego and pride over his men on the ship, almost causing the death of his men to occur. His cockiness and selfishness is proven throughout the poem to be dangerous to others affiliated with him.
A trait that all heroes should have is humility. Odysseus doesn’t have any of humility. When Odysseus and his men are reflecting upon their escape from the Cyclops, Odysseus shows his true-self. “Did I not keep my nerve, use my wits, to find a way out for us.” (p.776-777) This shows how Odysseus is unappreciative of his men and that he thinks is the sole reason of success. Thinking that you are the best and everyone else is nothing compared to you isn’t the way the hero should act or think in front of his men.
Throughout the story, Odysseus proves that he is a ruthless and lying person. First, when Odysseus makes the maids at his house clean the blood and then kill them, that shows his ruthless trait. Second, when Odysseus wants to brag about a gift from the Cyclops, thats shows his big ego. Next, when Odysseus cheats on his wife, Penelope, with Circe and Calypso that represents his dishonesty and disloyalty, especially when he is “forced” to stay with Calypso, for seven long years, while Penelope is busy occupying the suitors to help Odysseus. Lastly, Odysseus shows that he has no humility when he tells his men that he is the sole reason why they escaped from the Cyclops. These traits do not represent a hero in any way, that is why it make my opinion to be in assurance that Odysseus is not a hero and that we should not accept his “heroic conventions,” because they are quite far from being heroic in many ways.
Homer, The Odyssey, Trans, Robert Fagles, New York: Penguin, 2002, Kindle.
“Odysseus | Greek Mythology.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.