Odysseus: A Character Analysis

The Odyssey by Homer: 9780140383096 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

Around 750 BCE, at the height of Greek civilization, a blind bard named Homer lived in Ionia, on the western coast of Turkey. Little is known about Homer, but his legacy lives on in his two great works – the Iliad and the Odyssey. While the former is formidable in its own right, it is in its sequel, the Odyssey, that Homer’s incredible craft is showcased. Detailing the adventures of Odysseus, the wily king of Ithaca, and his ten-year-long attempt to return to his country, the Odyssey explores lofty themes of human nature while remaining relatable to readers nearly three thousand years later. 

The poem can generally be split into three parts: immediately post-Trojan War, when Odysseus begins to set sail for home; the true odyssey, in which Odysseus must overcome many obstacles on his way back to his home; and the return to Ithaca, the chronicle of Odysseus regaining his rightful position as king. However, it is not the events of the poem that are worthy of note – instead, it is the behavior of the hero himself. Through the interference of the gods, whether to aid or hinder, Odysseus withstands harrowing experiences, all of which leave him a man and hero changed for the better. 

Odysseus is introduced to the audience as a god among men (in Ithaca, at least). However, this implies that Odysseus has never truly needed to better himself, making him vulnerable to hubris. Odysseus’ pride is justified to an extent, as seen when he and his crew are captured by the Cyclops, but Odysseus manages to trick the Cyclops and engineer their escape. However, just as they are about to sail away, Odysseus arrogantly stokes the rage of the Cyclops, not realising that the Cyclops he insults is the son of Poseidon, who then curses Odysseus. This is the catalyst for the change that Odysseus will undergo for the rest of the poem, because it makes it clear his pride will not serve him well in the future. 

In the ten long years between Odysseus’ departure from Troy and his arrival in Ithaca, Odysseus faces countless struggles that mold him into a character that is capable of overcoming his previously debilitating hubris. He meets characters who are equally as clever and wily as he is, forcing him to recognise people outside of himself. Famous characters who make an appearance during this arc are Circe, the wickedly powerful enchantress of the sea; Scylla and Charybdis, two sea monsters who devastate Odysseus’ crew; and Calypso, who successfully manages to trap Odysseus on her island for seven years. However, these experiences are mitigated by divine interference, notably via Athena and Hermes. 

By the final arc of the story, Odysseus has finally renounced his hubris and bowed to the will of the gods, while also being self-aware enough to understand his own worth. The situation in his country has deteriorated in his absence, and suitors of his wife, Penelope, have overrun the palace. Heeding the lessons of the past decade, Odysseus disguises himself as a poor beggar and wanders to the home of his loyal shepherd, Eumaeus, choosing to keep himself secret until he can determine who in Ithaca is truly loyal to him – a wise move, considering that the very next day, he is accosted by both one of his subjects and a suitor. By this point in his journey, Odysseus has learned how to let go of his pride with the knowledge that he will soon get his revenge. 

It is this that makes Odysseus a revolutionary hero: not that he is strong enough to kill all the suitors, but that he is clever enough to both withstand the abuse directed towards him while betraying nothing, and to trick the suitors into underestimating him until the fatal moment. Because of the way he handles the unfortunate situation he is in, although Odysseus does not fit the usual definition of a Greek hero (that is, all brawn and no brains), throughout his journey, he learns to be a more balanced heroic figure, which undoubtedly cements his status as one of the foremost heroes in literature for all time.

– Mahak M.

Homer’s The Odyssey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Magician by Raymond Feist

Countless tales of the struggle between good and evil in Medieval times have been told. But it takes a true artisan to delve into not only fanciful creatures but other worlds as well. Raymond Feist does this masterfully.

This book is a classic in the realm of fantasy and adventure. It has been captivating readers for more than 30 years. After reading it, I understand its appeal. The author creates parallel universes that are enthralling. A rift opens in the Kingdom, and they are attacked by the Tsurani. The Tsurani have no metal in their world, however, they are rich with magicians. These magicians are powerful and wreak havoc wherever they go. There are also many Kingdom characters who are instrumental in the survival of their world. We watch as they grow and change throughout the course of the invasion transforming to meet each challenge. There is no lack of adventure.

Don’t be put off by the length of this book (841 pages!) It will draw you in and keep your attention as you live their story. Sometimes, it is hard to keep track of all the characters, but the resolution ties all the strings together at the end and makes it worthwhile.

I recommend this book if you are someone who enjoys fantasy, adventure and doesn’t mind conflict. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

Also note, that this is the first in a series of many books that continue the Riftwar Saga.

-Elijah Y.

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Two Towers is the second book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous trilogy known as The Lord of the Rings.  The first half focuses on Aragorn and the remaining members of the Fellowship of the Ring.  The second half focuses on Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee as they try to reach Mordor.  The book includes various subplots, and many characters and places, so it may seem difficult to keep track of everything.  However, the story is very gripping and worth the effort to read.

Some of my favorite characters in this book are the Ents.  The Ents are like tree people.  Two of the little hobbits, Pippin and Merry, encounter an Ent named Treebeard after escaping a group of savage orcs.  Treebeard, like other Ents, is very tall and strong.  He moves very slowly because he does not like to be “too hasty.”  The Ents are usually gentle creatures, but they can become powerful warriors if aroused to battle.  I enjoy reading about these creatures because they are like trees come to life.

Treebeard takes Pippin and Merry to a tower controlled by Saruman.  Saruman is a wizard who was once good.  He is one of my favorite characters in the trilogy, even though we learn that he has become bad.  His voice is described as low and melodious, and he is able to enchant and trick people.  He appears to be full of wisdom, which enables him to gain many followers.  This character is a very accurate portrayal of how a wicked person can deceive many people.

Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are traveling with the One Ring toward Mordor, an evil land where orcs and many unnamed horrors roam.  They are guided by Gollum, a savage little thing that was once a hobbit, but has become corrupted by the ring.  Frodo and Sam form an uneasy alliance with Gollum after taming him, even though he still lusts for the ring.  The ring grants its wearer invisibility, but it also slowly overpowers its owner.  The ring is designed to get back to its creator, the evil Sauron.  Sauron is in the form of an eye on a tower in Mordor, always searching for his ring, which would give him unlimited power.

This book is a great story about the dangers of greed and power.  It also includes many surprises and plot twists.  The end of the book is a sort of cliffhanger, so I would recommend that readers read the entire trilogy in sequence.  The Two Towers is a great book on its own, but it should definitely be read along with the other books in the trilogy.

-Oliver H. 

J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive