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Is Odysseus a Hero Essay

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The hero's journey has long been a prominent theme in literature, showcasing the trials and triumphs of individuals who demonstrate exceptional bravery and resilience. One such iconic figure is Odysseus, the legendary Greek hero from Homer's epic poem, "The Odyssey." Odysseus is known for his cunning intellect, strategic thinking, and unmatched courage. The question remains: is he truly a hero? This essay will explore various aspects of Odysseus' character to determine whether he deserves this esteemed title or if there are flaws that challenge his heroic status. By examining his actions throughout the story and analyzing different perspectives on what constitutes a hero, we can arrive at a comprehensive understanding of Odysseus' true nature.

Definition of a hero

Defining a hero solely based on these traits may be limiting as it fails to capture the complexities of human nature. Heroes can also exhibit flaws or make questionable decisions along their journey. Some argue that true heroes are those who acknowledge their imperfections but still strive for greatness despite their shortcomings.

In the case of Odysseus, his character possesses both admirable qualities and evident flaws. While he demonstrates remarkable bravery in facing formidable obstacles such as battling monsters like Polyphemus and navigating treacherous seas, he also exhibits arrogance at times. His pride often leads him astray from his ultimate goal of returning home to Ithaca and causes harm to himself and his crew members.

Therefore, when evaluating Odysseus' heroic status, it is crucial to consider not only his commendable attributes but also his moments of weakness or questionable choices throughout the narrative. By examining these aspects holistically, we can form a more nuanced understanding of whether Odysseus truly fits the mold of an archetypal hero or if there are aspects that challenge this perception.

Odysseus as a protagonist in the epic poem "The Odyssey"

As the protagonist of "The Odyssey," Odysseus is undoubtedly the central figure around whom the entire narrative revolves. The epic poem chronicles his arduous journey back home from Troy, a voyage that lasts ten years and encompasses numerous trials and tribulations. Throughout this epic odyssey, Odysseus showcases his resourcefulness and intelligence in overcoming obstacles and outwitting adversaries.

One notable instance of Odysseus' ingenuity is when he devises the plan to blind Polyphemus, the Cyclops who had trapped him and his men inside his cave. By introducing himself as "Nobody" and strategically waiting until after Polyphemus consumes wine to attack, Odysseus ensures success for their escape. This demonstrates not only his cunning nature but also his ability to think quickly under pressure.

Odysseus displays great leadership skills in rallying his men during challenging times. For example, when facing Scylla's monstrous six-headed beast or Charybdis' whirlpool, he inspires courage within them despite their fear of these formidable threats. His unwavering determination keeps them focused on their ultimate goal - returning home safely.

Odysseus' role as a protagonist extends beyond mere physical prowess; it encompasses moral growth as well. He endures personal transformations throughout the journey, learning valuable lessons about humility and empathy along the way. These experiences shape him into a more mature individual by the end of "The Odyssey."

Odysseus serves as an exemplary protagonist in Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey." His resourcefulness, strategic thinking, leadership qualities, and capacity for growth make him a compelling character whose actions captivate readers even today. Despite any flaws or questionable decisions he may exhibit throughout the story, it is clear that Odysseus embodies many characteristics associated with heroism while remaining relatable due to his human vulnerabilities

Courage and bravery displayed by Odysseus throughout his journey

While there may be flaws or questionable decisions in Odysseus' character that challenge traditional notions of heroism, there can be no doubt about the remarkable qualities displayed by him throughout "The Odyssey." From exhibiting resourcefulness and intelligence to demonstrating leadership skills and moral growth - all amidst countless trials - Odysseus proves time and again why he stands as an enduring symbol of heroism. His journey serves as a reminder that true heroes are not without their flaws but rise above them through acts of courage, resilience, and unwavering determination.

Intelligence and cunningness as key attributes of Odysseus

One of the key attributes that sets Odysseus apart as a hero is his exceptional intelligence and cunningness. Throughout "The Odyssey," he consistently demonstrates his ability to think strategically, solve problems, and outsmart his adversaries. This is evident in various instances throughout the epic poem.
Odysseus' quick thinking and cleverness are exemplified in his encounter with Circe, the enchantress who turns his crew into swine. Instead of blindly charging into danger, Odysseus takes a moment to reflect on the situation and seeks guidance from Hermes, the messenger of gods. With Hermes' help, he acquires an herb that grants him immunity against Circe's magic. By employing this resourcefulness, he not only saves himself but also manages to free his men from their porcine state.

When faced with challenges such as navigating past Scylla and Charybdis or escaping Polyphemus' cave unscathed, Odysseus relies on cunning strategies rather than sheer strength alone. He understands that brute force would be futile against these formidable opponents and instead employs tactics that exploit their weaknesses.

Odysseus' intelligence is further demonstrated through his use of disguises throughout "The Odyssey." Whether it be assuming different identities like a beggar or fabricating stories about his past experiences, he utilizes deception as a means to gather information or gain an advantage over others.
Odysseus proves himself to be more than just a physically strong warrior; he possesses an astute mind capable of devising intricate plans and schemes. His intelligence and cunningness serve as critical attributes that allow him to navigate through treacherous situations successfully. It is through these qualities that Odysseus emerges as a multidimensional hero whose prowess extends beyond mere physical abilities

Leadership qualities and ability to inspire his crew

One of the key aspects that solidify Odysseus' heroism is his exceptional leadership qualities and ability to inspire his crew. Throughout their perilous journey, Odysseus acts as a guiding force, motivating his men to persevere in the face of daunting challenges. He understands the importance of unity and teamwork, recognizing that success can only be achieved through collective effort.

Odysseus demonstrates strong leadership by making crucial decisions for the benefit of his crew. For instance, when they encounter Circe's island, he ensures that they follow a plan to avoid falling into her enchantments and losing themselves indefinitely. His strategic thinking not only safeguards their well-being but also reinforces their trust in him as a leader.

Odysseus's unwavering determination and indomitable spirit serve as an inspiration for his men during moments of despair. In facing dangers such as the sirens' seductive songs or Scylla's terrifying presence, he instills courage within them by setting an example himself. By confronting these perils head-on while exuding confidence and resolve, he motivates his crew to overcome their fears and remain steadfast in their quest.

Odysseus exhibits empathy towards his comrades throughout their journey. He mourns the loss of every fallen comrade, acknowledging both their individual sacrifices and the impact it has on those left behind. This compassion strengthens the bond between him and his crew members while reinforcing loyalty among them.

Odysseus proves himself as an exemplary leader who possesses remarkable abilities to motivate and inspire others during challenging times. His strategic thinking combined with empathy allows him to navigate treacherous waters both literally and figuratively while maintaining unity among his crew members. It is through these leadership qualities that Odysseus solidifies himself as a heroic figure in "The Odyssey."

Challenges faced by Odysseus and how he overcomes them

Throughout his epic journey, Odysseus faces a multitude of challenges that test his physical and mental strength. One of the most formidable obstacles he encounters is the wrath of the gods. Poseidon, in particular, holds a grudge against Odysseus for blinding his son Polyphemus. As a result, Odysseus must navigate treacherous seas filled with storms and sea monsters while constantly evading the wrath of Poseidon. Through his cunning and wit, Odysseus finds ways to outsmart these dangers and continue on his quest.

Another significant challenge faced by Odysseus is temptation from various sources. Whether it be the enchanting songs of the Sirens or the seductive allure of Circe's island, Odysseus must resist these temptations that threaten to derail him from reaching home. He employs strategies such as having himself tied to the mast so he can hear but not succumb to the Sirens' song or using Hermes' advice to protect himself from Circe's spells by consuming an herb called moly. Through discipline and self-control, he overcomes these alluring obstacles.

Upon returning home to Ithaca after years of absence, Odysseus faces yet another set of challenges in reclaiming his kingdom from suitors who have taken advantage of his presumed death to woo Penelope and usurp his throne. To regain control and restore order in Ithaca, he must carefully plan and execute a strategy that involves disguising himself as a beggar until he can reveal his true identity at an opportune moment. This shows both his strategic thinking skills as well as resilience in facing adversity head-on.

In overcoming these challenges - be they divine intervention or personal temptations -Odysseus demonstrates resourcefulness, intelligence, and perseverance throughout "The Odyssey." His ability to think quickly on his feet enables him to outmaneuver dangerous creatures, resist temptations, and eventually reclaim his kingdom. It is through these triumphs over adversity that Odysseus solidifies his status as a hero, showcasing not only physical prowess but also the strength of character necessary to overcome the most formidable challenges.

Ethical dilemmas and moral growth of Odysseus

Throughout his journey, Odysseus encounters numerous ethical dilemmas that test his character and force him to confront difficult moral choices. One such instance is when he blinds Polyphemus, an act of retaliation for the Cyclops devouring some of his men. While this action may be seen as necessary for survival and revenge, it raises questions about the ethics of resorting to violence and causing harm in order to achieve one's goals.

Another moral dilemma arises when Odysseus must navigate between Scylla and Charybdis, risking the lives of some of his crew members in the process. This decision highlights the tension between self-preservation and protecting those under one's command. It forces Odysseus to make a difficult choice between sacrificing a few for the greater good or attempting a more treacherous path that could result in the loss of all their lives.

Despite these morally ambiguous moments, Odysseus undergoes significant moral growth throughout his odyssey. He learns valuable lessons about humility and empathy through trials such as encountering beggar Irus upon returning home or witnessing firsthand the consequences of hubris with figures like Agamemnon. These experiences shape him into a more compassionate leader who values human connection over personal pride.

While Odysseus faces numerous ethical dilemmas throughout "The Odyssey," these challenges provide opportunities for him to grow morally. By navigating complex decisions and grappling with their consequences, he emerges as a more mature individual who understands both the importance of strategic thinking in achieving goals and the significance of compassion towards others along that journey

Comparison with other mythical heroes to highlight Odysseus' heroic qualities

To fully grasp the extent of Odysseus' heroic qualities, it is valuable to compare him with other mythical heroes from different cultures. One such hero is Hercules, known for his incredible strength and twelve labors. While Hercules possesses physical prowess that surpasses ordinary mortals, Odysseus relies on his wit and intelligence to overcome challenges. This contrast showcases Odysseus' resourcefulness as a hero who utilizes strategy rather than brute force.
Another iconic mythical hero is Beowulf, renowned for his bravery in battling monstrous creatures like Grendel and the dragon. In comparison, Odysseus displays a more nuanced approach to heroism by navigating complex situations through diplomacy and cunning tactics. His encounter with Circe, where he outsmarts her enchantments and secures the release of his crew members, exemplifies this aspect of his character.

When compared to Achilles from Homer's "The Iliad," Odysseus demonstrates resilience in enduring hardships while maintaining a sense of honor. Unlike Achilles who withdraws from battle due to personal grievances, Odysseus remains steadfast in fulfilling his responsibilities as both a leader and a warrior.
These comparisons highlight how Odysseus stands out among other mythical heroes by embodying traits beyond physical strength or unwavering bravery alone. His cleverness, adaptability, leadership skills, and commitment to loyalty make him an exceptional protagonist whose actions resonate with readers across cultures throughout history


The question of whether Odysseus is a hero is complex and multifaceted. While he possesses many heroic qualities such as bravery, intelligence, and leadership skills, his flaws and questionable decisions challenge his status as an archetypal hero. It is precisely these imperfections that make him a relatable character and allow for personal growth throughout his epic journey. Odysseus serves as a reminder that heroes are not infallible beings but rather individuals who face adversity with determination and resilience. Whether or not one considers him a hero may depend on their interpretation of what defines true heroism. Nonetheless, there is no denying the enduring impact of Odysseus' story and its exploration of the complexities inherent in human nature.

Work Cited


But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness.


"At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti quos dolores et quas molestias excepturi sint occaecati cupiditate non provident."


"On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue."

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