Odysseus as an Epic Hero In an epic poem, epic heroes exist. An epic hero, an important figure from a history or legend, has to relate to society. By having similar traits as humans, people will look up to the hero. In the epic poem, Beowulf, the epic hero, “Beowulf”, has the ability to die. Since he has this trait, he relates to the civilization and they look up to him. The “Odyssey”, another epic poem, has a hero also. Odysseus, the hero in the “Odyssey,” fits a model of an epic hero because he has the important traits of an epic hero and relates to society.
His traits include the ability to feel fear, his cunning, and physically impressive traits. Odysseus fits the model of an epic hero because he feels fear. The epic hero cannot relate to society unless he has the ability to feel fear. In having something to lose, the epic hero must demonstrate courage by overcoming the source of his terror. Odysseus experiences this terror mentally and physically, he faces it, and ultimately overcomes it. As Polyphemus, the Cyclops, speaks, Odysseus and his men feel “a pressure” on their hearts, “in dread / of that deep rumble and that mighty man” (246-7).
Odysseus and his men face the possibility of death when the encounter the Cyclops. Odysseus’ actions show his humanity because of his ability to feel fear mentally. He also expresses his fear physically when he raises his hands in supplication to Zeus, crying out “lifting our hands to Zeus, / powerless, looking on at this, appalled” (284-5). Because Odysseus experiences fear physically and mentally, he relates to his men, Greek society, and the reader. Like all men, Odysseus must face his fear in order to overcome it. As Homer says, “Now, by the gods, I . . . cheered my men along with battle talk / to keep their courage up: no quitting now. . . . So with our brand we bored that great eye socket / while blood ran out around the red-hot bar” (368-83). In this case, Odysseus and his men use physical force to conquer the Cyclops. In doing so, he secures safety for his men and motivates them to face other obstacles on their journey. Having faced and defeated Polyphemus, Odysseus shows that he fits the true epic model of a hero. Odysseus demonstrates how he fits the replica of an epic hero because of his cunning. An epic hero associates with the society around him because of his craftiness and cunning. Odysseus displays this by getting out of dangerous ituations, leading his men out of danger, and using flattery. Odysseus and his men, trapped in a cave, needed to get out so they could live. He drew on all his “wits, and ran through tactics, / reasoning as a man will for dear life, / until a trick came” (418-20). To get out of the cave, he tied himself and his men to the underside of each ram. Clever Odysseus shows his men how cunning can get you out of dangerous situations quickly. He expresses cunning another way by leading his crew out of danger. He does this by keeping his men away from eating the Lotus flower that made them forget their homeland.
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To save them, he drove them “to the ships, / tied them down under their rowing benches, / and called the rest” (211-13). This showed his cunning saved his men. Thus, a good captain and epic hero, like Odysseus, should have a cunning personality. Calypso, the goddess nymph, trapped Odysseus on her island. He uses his cunning to flatter her into letting him return home. He does this by telling her “My lady goddess / … my quiet Penelope / … would seem a shade before your majesty, / death and old age being unknown to you, / while she must die” (114-17). His ability to flatter Calypso led him of the island and allowed him to go home.
An epic hero would need all these examples of cunning to survive and lead his men. To become an epic hero, it would help if he had physical strength, accuracy, and impressive looks. Odysseus shows he has strength when he “so effortlessly / … in one motion strung the bow” (1190-91). Odysseus could only string the bow. No one else could because of the heftiness of the bow. A hero must have accuracy. When Odysseus says, “Now watch me hit a target that no man has hit before” (1225) and hits the target, he proves that has accuracy. Odysseus and the other epic heroes should have impressive looks.
According to Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, Odysseus looks like “one of the gods who rule the sweep of heaven” (1001-02) and stands “like one of the immortals” (1019). Since he has these traits, it proves that he exemplifies an epic hero. Odysseus has proved that he fits the model of an epic hero because of his traits and how he associates with the society. Because of all these traits, he can finally get home. This becomes very important because he needed to accomplish his goal, to get home. Works Cited Homer. “The Odyssey. ” Austin, Texas: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2003
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