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The Heroic Odysseus - With A Free Essay Review
Odysseus has many trials and tribulations throughout his journey home to Ithaca. He experiences captivity, is offered immortality, is subjected to marriage propositions, and escapes the wrath of gods while he defies death and maintains his composure. Odysseus tricks Polyphemus, then he moves forward and kills the men who are pursuing his wife. Odysseus triumphs over those who seek him dead and remains faithful to his ultimate goal of returning to Penelope’s arms. Odysseus is a hero because he is audacious, has tactical acumen, and is altruistic as his actions in the following adventures prove.
First, Odysseus displays his audaciousness in Book X while docked on the island of Aeaea. Eurylochus returns to tell Odysseus of a possible trap. Eurylochus says, “You will never return yourself, I swear, you’ll never bring back a single man alive” (Homer 390). Immediately, Odysseus disembarks and goes after his men. Going against Eurylochus’ wishes, Odysseus confirms that although faced with certain death, he will take his chance to secure the livelihood of his men. Odysseus is blatantly courageous because he did not question Eurylochus any further. This act is in direct correlation of Odysseus’ heroism. A coward would have listened to Eurylochus’ words and not have taken the risk.
Second, Odysseus shows that he has tactical acumen in Book IX. Polyphemus asks Odysseus about his ship and he replies, “Poseidon god of earthquake smashed my ship” (377). This act provides evidence that Odysseus outsmarts Polyphemus and deceives him. While stating this to Polyphemus, Odysseus’ men and ship are still intact. This thoughtful manipulation gives hope of having a boat to escape on if Odysseus can escape from Polyphemus' cave. Odysseus has a broad range of experiences that let him make decisions smartly and tactfully as a hero does.
Last, Odysseus shows altruistic character in Book XXII when he kills all the men trying to oppress his family and found, “in the thick of slaughtered corpses, splattered with bloody filth like a lion” (540). There is not a better quote to reemphasize that Odysseus is a hero! A hero such as Odysseus prepares to do anything within his power to save his family, workers, and land. As a hero, he puts his people before himself, displaying that he genuinely cares about them. A person who will perform and act upon the feelings felt for another is a hero. Odysseus is also altruistic when he does not want any women exposed to the slaying; he commands them to go to specified rooms and wait until the men come to them.
Odysseus encounters numerous threats during his adventure home and upon saving his family in Ithaca. This is truly remarkable and heroic. After years of being apart from his family, Odysseus prevails during all of his experiences. As a character, he is a hero through his acts of audaciousness, having tactical acumen, and being altruistic. First, Odysseus is fearless when he disregards Eurylochus’ advice not to disembark the ship. This is not something a coward would do, but only a hero. Second, his display of heroism happens when he tricks Polyphemus to protect his men and escapes death. Saving a person’s life is worthy of being hero. Lastly, Odysseus’ display as being altruistic when he saves his family from their oppressors is a habit a hero must possess. He kills the men, thus protecting his family, workers, and the land.
Homer. "The Odyssey." Trans. Robert Fagles. The Norton Anthology World Literature, Shorter Second Edition. Ed. Sarah Lawall et al. Vol. 1. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009. 274-563. Print. 2 vols.
I think you do a reasonable good, methodical job of demonstrating the truth of your thesis. The argument is convincing enough as long as your reader agrees with your list of the characteristics of heroism, and of course there is nothing especially controversial about those characteristics. It is reasonable, because it is traditional, to associate heroism with bravery, for instance. Keep in mind, however, that heroic qualities are also necessarily exceptional, so one would probably not want to compare a hero with a coward ("A coward would have listened to Eurylochus’ words and not have taken the risk"), since not being a coward does not amount to being exceptional. If you said that even your average stout-hearted warrior would have balked at taking the risk Odysseus assumes, then we'd know what kind of hero Odysseus is.
Your penultimate paragraph begins a little oddly in asserting that Odysseus "shows [his] altruistic character" in killing a bunch of men. It’s not clear to me why you should emphasize altruism when the very quotation you cite emphasizes the magnitude and ferocity of Odysseus' bloody feat, and Penelope herself emphasizes the exceptional character of such a feat when she asks the nurse how Odysseus could have done such a thing “alone” (the word is "single-handed" in your translation); the fact that he acts alone is, I think, fundamentally related to his stature as a hero.
Ultimately, I'm not sure it is reasonable to read the Odyssey with a view to seeing whether Odysseus demonstrates the traits of heroism. The Odyssey, after all, is one of the works of literature that teaches us what the traits of heroism are in the first place. So if it were up to me, and I were determined to write about heroism in the Odyssey, I would aim not to show that Odysseus is a hero, but to ask what he teaches us about heroism.
In any case, it would of course be difficult to argue with your basic thesis that Odysseus is a hero. A good thesis, however, really needs to be arguable to some extent; i.e., it needs to be the kind of claim that doesn’t go without saying, the kind that reasonable people might disagree with.