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An Exemplary Hero: Homer’s “Odyssey” Essay

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Updated: May 6th, 2022


Attributed to Homer, the Odyssey is one of the great Greek epics focusing on the life of Odysseus. The masterpiece describes the life of Odysseus and his journey especially after the infamous fall of Troy. Throughout the ten years, he takes before reaching Ithaca, many people are forced to believe that the hero is dead. Consequently, Odysseus wife must deal with a number of suitors who want to marry her.

One outstanding fact about Odysseus is that he is the main hero of the epic (Homer 121). That being the case, Odysseus possesses many exemplary qualities as an epic hero. Incidentally, he possesses various attributes and qualities that either benefit or affect him throughout his journey to Ithaca. This discussion outlines the outstanding qualities possessed by Odysseus.

Odysseus’ Exemplary Qualities and How They Benefit Him

To begin with, Odysseus is always persistent. This kind of attribute makes it easier for him to achieve his potentials. The poem shows clearly that the hero was away from his beloved wife, Penelope, for a period of around 20 years. Throughout his journey, Odysseus encounters numerous challenges, obstacles, and temptations thus affecting his goals (Homer 58). Despite such obstacles and temptations, the epic hero works tirelessly in an attempt to return back home to his son, Telemachus, and wife (Homer 98).

In Book 9, the poem shows clearly that Odysseus focuses on his goal despite the adversities facing him. For instance, he stands firm against the allure of every lotus eater (Homer 72). He also encourages his crew members to focus on the journey ahead of them. The possession of this attribute explains why he eventually realizes his goals. According to many readers, Odysseus might have swayed along the way if he did not possess this quality.

The epic goes further to introduce another unique attribute of Odysseus. It is notable that Odysseus remains a good master planner throughout the masterpiece (Homer 136). This happens to be the case because he finds it easier to hatch and execute new plans. It is also notable that most of his plans are long-term in nature. This is a clear indication that Odysseus doe not ruin his plans by being impatient or nervous. This attribute is what makes it easier for Odysseus to rescue himself from Polyphemus. By so doing, the hero realizes his goals and objectives at the very end.

Most of the Greek epics indicate clearly that physical strength and ability to fight are critical attributes of every hero (Homer 53). In Book 23, the reader observes clearly that Odysseus strings a bow that most of Penelope’s suitors were unable to use. This is a clear indication that Odysseus had great energy and physical strength. This kind of strength plays a positive role in bringing him closer to Penelope. Throughout the journey, his strength makes it easier for him to survive despite the major obstacles facing him.

It is agreeable that Odysseus has intellectual capabilities. This kind of intelligence makes him superior and complicated than the other people in the masterpiece. Using his intelligentsia, Odysseus evaluates every situation before making the most desirable decisions (Homer 142). He also employs the use of logic before making his final choice. This kind of quality works in his favor thus making it easier for him to guide his followers and address the issues affecting him.

The other unique attribute possessed by the epic hero is that he is self-disciplined. Odysseus’ decision not to eat the lotus is a clear indication that he is disciplined. This kind of discipline guides him throughout the journey. The practice makes it easier for him to overcome a wide range of obstacles that might have made it impossible for him to go back to his family (Homer 149).

The epic shows clearly that Odysseus had his own code of conduct. Incidentally, the majority of the characters in the epic do not appear to possess such a quality. Throughout his adventures, Odysseus maintains his self-discipline and reexamines every situation in an attempt to act accordingly. He contemplates most of the time in order to ensure every decision is beneficial to him (Homer 109). The possession of this quality explains why Odysseus is always pleasing and interesting to most of the people around him. This quality attracts the attention of many characters in the epic.

It is agreeable that Odysseus is courageous. Since he is energetic, Odysseus commits himself to his ultimate goal. He courageously faces and addresses every situation facing him. It is because of this courage that the character vows to return home and reunite with his wife. He believes strongly that his return to Ithaca will make his life meaningful and worth living (Homer 209). This fact explains why Odysseus treats every step as a powerful test that must be faced courageously. He focuses on the best ideas and calculations in order to achieve his goals.

The other unique attribute is that Odysseus is always aware of his cultural values. For instance, it is agreeable that Odysseus’ desire for victory is a strong attribute driven or guided by his cultural values (Homer 117). The world depicted in the Odyssey does not have justice or punishment. That being the case, the use of power is treated as the best approach towards realizing every goal. The story of Odysseus indicates clearly that only the strong members of society eventually survive or realize their goals. This cultural affiliation also exposes another attribute of the leader. The epic shows clearly that Odysseus focuses on only two choices. This means that he should either earn victory or die in the process.

For instance, the epic shows conclusively that the ultimate outcome is in Odysseus’ hands. He is required to fight in order to win and earn victory (Homer 95). Even the gods believe strongly that his victory is in his own hands. This is notable when Athena decides to intervene but still leaves the final outcomes upon Odysseus. During the battle with Penelope’s suitors, Athena could have intervened in order to guarantee Odysseus’ victory. However, Athena does nothing and instead allows Odysseus to use his might and earn the most desired victory.

The story shows clearly that Odysseus possess powerful leadership skills. This is a key strength that makes it possible for him to lead his people and eventually realize his personal obligations. This kind of strength is notable from the masterpiece because of the loyalty portrayed by his followers. For example, Eumaios remains a faithful swineherd simply because of his leadership traits. Philoitios is also portrayed as a loyal cowherd throughout the journey. The kind of loyalty portrayed by the characters is a clear indication that Odysseus possessed the unique attributes of a competent leader. This character goes further to support the fact that Odysseus is the archetype of the Greek mythology conqueror (Homer 139).

Odysseus is portrayed as a strong person who has adequate faith in the welfare of mankind. This can be supported by the fact that he does not tolerate immortality (Homer 158). He goes further to portray the best human emotions and passions. Such passions play a positive role in charming the gods and goddesses such as Calypso. The possession of this value supports the fact that Odysseus is a true leader and hero.

The poem goes further to show conclusively that Odysseus is a skilled leader. For instance, he manages to negotiate successfully “especially on behalf of Agamemnon” (Homer 118). Through the use of his elocution and aptitude, the character goes further to astonish the Trojans. By so doing, Odysseus succeeds in inspiring a new wave of hope and confidence in his men. This achievement makes the team united for twenty years. The use of his skills makes it easier for his followers to act intelligently, support him, and eventually realize their targeted goals.

That being the case, it is agreeable all the exemplary qualities possessed by Odysseus play a significant role in supporting him throughout the journey. Such qualities make it easier for him to overcome most of the obstacles and challenges encountered throughout the journey. He also uses his skills to motivate and encourage his followers to focus on the journey ahead of them (Homer 173). After poking Cyclops’ eyes, the hero decides not to kill him. This is the case because the attempt to kill Cyclops would have made it hard for him to get out of the cave.

His loyalty and love for Penelope is another powerful attribute that supports him for those twenty years. This is true because he remains faithful and vows to return to his wife despite the challenges facing him. This notion encourages him to undertake new paths that can eventually take him to Ithaca (Homer 121). Throughout the journey, the idea that he must reunite with his family remains relevant.

The combinations of the above traits make it easier for Odysseus to emerge as a courageous character. His courage makes it easier for him to battle the seas and eventually achieve his objectives. The masterpiece also shows clearly how Odysseus uses his courage to outsmart the other characters such as Cyclops. While at the same time portraying his courageous side, Odysseus goes further to prove to his people that he is a nobleman.

This attribute of nobility supports him throughout the journey. Because of these unique attributes, Odysseus fulfills the description of a true epic hero (Homer 210). Many people find it easier to idealize him for his noble attributes, outstanding endeavors, and courage. He works tirelessly, overcomes traps, outsmarts many people, and deceives whenever necessary in order to return to his beloved wife.

The possession of the above qualities helps Odysseus throughout the epic. Such qualities made it easier for him to kill the Cyclops at the time when the giants were asleep (Homer 110). The author of the poem shows clearly that Odysseus had the nerve to stand up for each and every belief. The poem shows conclusively that the hero does not follow the opinions of those around him. Consequently, he goes further to do what is ethical to him. He uses his skills in an attempt to ensure every job is finished. For instance, Odysseus plugs the ears of sailors with wax (Homer 141). Such “sweet melodies lure the sailors to their doom” (Homer 141).

The reader realizes that Odysseus understands the importance of wisdom. This means that the use of wisdom is the only sure way towards achieving success. Odysseus uses his wisdom and courage along the journey. The reader can, therefore, focus on these qualities in order to understand why Odysseus is the epic hero (Homer 142).

Odysseus’ patience is tested after arriving in Ithaca. At this moment, Odysseus is ready to kill all the suitors because he is very uncomfortable with them. He even says that his past has been unbelievable and unbearable (Homer 209). Because of his patience, Odysseus decides not to reveal his identity. This kind of approach makes it easier for him to test his wife’s authenticity. The strategy also makes it easier for Odysseus to deal with Penelope’s suitors. The decision to deceive Penelope can be treated as a strength because he eventually tests her faith.

Towards the end of the story, the reader observes that that the hero is willing to temper his pride with great patience. The reader sees clearly that Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar. This act explains why Odysseus fails to react to every form of abuse. He seems to accept such abuses from the suitors. He appears to believe strongly that his trap would work effectively on his favor. His endurance of the abuses is a clear indication that patience is a powerful attribute associated with epic heroes (Homer 141). He eventually relies on his trap to strike back and emerge victorious.

Odysseus’ Less Admirable Characteristics and How They Cause Him Harm

The above analysis shows that Odysseus was a great strategist, brave, and courageous. In spite of his heroic powers and abilities, the character remains ineffective and imperfect (Homer 39). This is proved by the weaknesses or flaws that dictate the future of his journey. The consequences of such weaknesses include the wrath of specific gods such as Poseidon. This god holds grudge against the hero thus prolonging his path to Ithaca.

To begin with, Odysseus embraces the use of arrogance thus attracting more trouble. This is notable when he enters Cyclops’ cave. He does this without thinking of the major consequences that might befall him. Inside the cave, Odysseus learns with great shock that he is unable to escape. He decided to yell to Cyclops. He used his pride to identify himself to Cyclops.

This act of pride makes Cyclops angry thus forcing him to pray for Odysseus’ destruction. The situation worsens when all his companions perish before he could go back home. The agreeable thing from this event is that Odysseus’ companions would have survived throughout the journey if he had not entered the cave (Homer 95). The narration also indicates that Odysseus assumed that Cyclops would treat him nicely or as a guest. However, this kind of assumption works against him thus finding it hard to continue with the journey.

Because of his pride, Odysseus decides to defy the gods. He does so by declaring openly that he was responsible for his own victory. He asserted that the gods had not assisted him. However, this happens to be untrue because Poseidon had sent a huge serpent to destroy one of Odysseus’ enemies. This act alone helped Odysseus to emerge victorious. This weakness of pride reoccurs throughout the story. The hero’s pride is noticeable when he reveals his name at the time they are leaving Cyclops Island. The misbehavior increases the anger of the gods (Homer 128).

While on the Cyclopes’ Island, Odysseus brags about his strengths and exploits. This form of pride compels Polythemus to hurl gigantic boulders. The sinking of their ship is because of this act (Homer 114). The occurrence of this incident weakens Odysseus and makes it harder for him to reach home much faster. It is agreeable that Odysseus’ pride makes it harder for him to reach Ithaca (Homer 114). The story also indicates that Poseidon makes Odysseus’ journey unbearable and long.

The above events also show conclusively that Odysseus did not have respect for others. This lack of respect led to the loss of his companions. He is also portrayed as a selfish character. His selfishness explains why he brags about his superiority. The malpractice eventually makes it impossible to realize most of his goals. His lack of respect for other individuals paints a negative attribute of the character thus disorienting his future fortunes (Homer 119).

The poem presents another unique weakness of this character. For instance, the story describes how Odysseus chose to decide with Circle for almost a year. For this whole year, Odysseus did not remember anything to do with home. The situation forced his companions to “remind him about his goals of going to Ithaca” (Homer 116). This occurrence indicates that Odysseus was unable to overcome any form of temptation. This weakness explains why the character was unable to realize his mission. These weaknesses appear to downsize Odysseus. Since he is unable to deal with temptation, he becomes less powerful and wastes a lot of time. His people find it extremely hard to cope with his decisions.

The other unique flaw exhibited by Odysseus is his lack of alertness. The hero makes a huge mistake when he decides to take a walk alone in order to pray. This weakness results in the death of his emaciated followers (Homer 128). When he returns, Odysseus learns with great shock that his crew has encountered hunger and misery. This kind of weakness jeopardizes the mission of the crew.

The episode when Odysseus sticks was in the ears of each and every crew member is a clear indication that Odysseus was a selfish character. By so doing, Odysseus jeopardizes the members of his crew while at the same time seeking to satisfy his personal needs or motives (Homer 162). This can be treated as a pernicious thing that should be avoided by leaders and heroes by all costs.

The story goes further to show how Odysseus weaknesses influence the behaviors of his followers. The crew takes a very long time before going back to Ithaca (Homer 201). The crew engages in various malpractices that portray their flaws. These flaws eventually cost them their lives. Some of the flaws associated with the crew include alcohol consumption and gluttony. Under the command of Odysseus, the crew engages in drinking orgies while in Cicones. The behavior explains why the crew members decide to disobey and go against the wishes of their leader. The people of Cicones find it easier to defeat Odysseus’ men.

The other outstanding weakness observed in the book is Odysseus disobedience. The reader observes that the weakness reoccurs throughout the journey. This disobedience is seen when Odysseus opened a sack of wind. He did this knowing very clearly that he had been ordered by the god of winds not to open it. The released winds blew the ship thus taking Odysseus more time to reach Ithaca. If Odysseus had not disobeyed Aeolus’ orders, the crew would have arrived much earlier (Homer 169).

The possession of the above weaknesses makes it harder to Odysseus and his crew to realize their goals. Some members of the crew eventually die because of such weaknesses and flaws. However, it should be observed that Odysseus still remains the central hero in the masterpiece (Homer 114). His appears to possess superior qualities that make him the favorite character in the story. Despite such traits, Odysseus reveals less admirable aspects that reshape the future of his journey. These qualities cause him greater harm by claiming the lives of his crewmembers. It can be argued that the weaknesses possessed by Odysseus reveal a unique aspect of human nature.


Odysseus long journey can be used to describe the challenges and paths undertaken by many individuals who want to realize their potentials. In conclusion, these above virtues (both the undesirable and desirable) play a positive role towards making the hero successful. He confronts all the challenges facing him throughout the journey (Homer 191). His strength and ability to focus on the targeted goal is something that makes it easier for Odysseus to reach home and reunite with Penelope. The combinations of these qualities play a critical role towards making Odysseus the most preferable epic hero of Homer’s time.

Work Cited

Homer. Homer, The Odyssey of Homer. Translated by Richard Lattimore, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2007. Print.

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