The characteristics of humankind have shined prominently throughout one’s actions instead of one’s fame and power. Several well-known heroes of history have demonstrated their negative attributes subsequent to their positive actions. Odysseus, the epic hero of The Odyssey, is a prime example of losing sight of his morals throughout arrogance. Although Homer attempts to portray Odysseus as an intelligent and admirable character, this epic hero is far more flawed because of his cocky decisions made throughout the epic.
Because Odysseus is the epic hero of the Odyssey, Homer attempts to present Odysseus as an excellent and wise character. Odysseus’ skill of strategic planning throughout the epic is exceptionally characterized when he decides to blind Polyphemus to save his men and himself, “how could we with our bare hands heave back/ that slab he set to block the caverns gaping maw?…/I ordered my shipmates…/ to hoist our stake and grind it into his eye…” (Homer. 9.340-372). In the Cyclops’ cavern, the ability to strategically plan reflects Odysseus’ clever and cunning traits because he is required to use his wisdom in fatal situations. Homer portrays the intellect of Odysseus with the Cyclops originally in a positive way because the author explains that he is smart enough to save some of his men from their impending deaths. After pleading for mercy, Eurymachus fails to fool Odysseus into sparing his life, “No Eurymachus! Not if you paid me all your father’s wealth…/ not even then would I stay my hands from slaughter/ till all you suitors had paid for all your crimes!” (22.65-68). Because Eurymachus’ enchantments fail to deceive Odysseus, the epic hero’s social intelligence shines throughout the anecdote. The ability to decipher between merit and corruption is a positive aspect of Odysseus’ character because the diabolical intentions of the suitors do not easily trick him. Although Odysseus’ attribute of brilliance is a positive character trait, his true negative colors bleed through his arrogant and ruthless decisions after making wise choices.
Conceit is a notorious character trait of Odysseus that eventually causes his ruthlessness. After his major success of defeating Polyphemus, Odysseus decides to taunt the cyclops without listening to the wise advice of his crewmates: “Cyclops-/if any man on the face of the earth should ask you who blinded you, shamed you so- say Odysseus,/ raider of cities…”(9.558.561). When Odysseus announces his identity to the Cyclops, this action reflects his arrogance and conceit as a person because he loses sight of the effects of his actions. Odysseus’ cockiness further destroys his reputation because he illuminates his accomplishments instead of remaining humble. During the slaughter in the hall, Telemachus has to beg Odysseus to have mercy on the innocent men: “Stop, don’t cut him down! This one’s innocent./… so is the herald Medon/…Unless he’s dead by now,/ …[if he] ran into you rampaging through the halls” (22.375-382). When Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, has to remind his father to spare the innocent, Odysseus’ arrogant ruthlessness seeps through his excellent traits like poisonous gas. The inhumane actions of the king of Ithaca shown in the mass killing of the suitors are prominent because they shine a morbid light of a merciless character on Odysseus. Because Odysseus’ arrogance and barbarism ruin and leak through his rational decisions, Odysseus is more of a flawed than an admirable person.
Throughout observing epic heroes in several stories, Odysseus is one of the main characters who prove that his flaws outweigh his goodness. Because positive choices reflect Odysseus’ strong intellect in the epic, the reader can somewhat see Odysseus as an admirable character. However, when Odysseus decides to make unfavorable, cocky decisions after his admired actions, he further proves to the reader that he is a flawed human being. An epic hero’s primary goal is to save the day, but in reality, many lose sight of their proper morals after gaining a powerful reputation.