Odysseus is the king of Ithaca, husband of Penelope, father of Telemachus, son of Laertes and Anticleia. He is a hero from the Trojan War and becomes famous for his intelligence and cunning mind – he is the one to make up the Trojan horse. So far, Odysseus seems to be incredible, resourceful and even godlike, but “The Odyssey” presents him in a new light, reveals his true character and shows both – his good and his wrong side.
Truly, Odysseus is among the most significant Greek heroes, together with Heracles and Achilles. The similarity between the three of them is that at least one god supports them. Athene is the one who likes the king of Ithaca; she calls him “admirable King”, who ruled “like a loving father. The goddess of wisdom always helps her favorite disguised as the daughter of ship’s captain or just little girl. That is why Odysseus “looks godlike”, “enveloped in the mist” or “invincible”, surrounded by magic.
However, not all of the gods like Odysseus. Poseidon, the sea god, tries to prevent him from going back to Ithaca – “he roused the stormy blasts of every wind”. No human being would sustain the god’s anger, but Odysseus overcomes the storm. Poseidon sends him “mountainous” waves and “tremendous gust”; the power of the god overflows the Trojan hero who is just about to die when Ino, The White Goddess, takes pity on him. In the end, Poseidon is made to give up, and Odysseus is the winner of their fight.
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Odysseus has both internal and external qualities. He is described as “courteous” in Book 6 when he begs for help first Nausicaa and later her mother, – Arete. Despite being overtired, hungry and powerless, Odysseus does not forget his good manners – “I should be ashamed to stand naked”, “it would be better to keep distance”. Courteousness is a quality common for heroes, kings and noblemen, especially in similar circumstances. Being seven years on Ogygia, most people would look rude and arrogant, but not the king of Ithaca.
Furthermore, Odysseus is “looks like the gods who live in heaven”; he is “handsome” and “admirable”. Nausicaa is immediately attracted by “the stranger’s” appearance – “I wish I could have a man like him for my husband”. It is not the first time a woman wants to marry him – he has just got rid of the Nymph Calypso. But Odysseus remains faithful to his wife Penelope and keeps her in his thoughts, a testament to their strong relationship. He is ready to endure anything to reach Ithaca – “It’s my never-failing wish” – and to hug his wife and son, proof of his loyalty towards his family and people.
Odysseus is not only well-mannered and handsome but solid and skilful, as well. Firstly, he makes a raft by himself on Ogygia and secondly, he throws the biggest discus at an enormous distance. The Phaeacians are amazed by his power and strength; no one dares to challenge him in any sport. However, that is the place where Odysseus’ supremacy is shown. He is not only incredible, but he dominates over all Phaeacians – something familiar for heroes or even gods. Finally, Odysseus is a fantastic orator – he is not just good, but he deceives and attracts people with his words. In Books 6, 7 and 8, there are some moments when everybody “stood still and silent” after Odysseus has finished speaking.
Firstly, he knows how to draw attention and make compliments – e.g. Book six, the meeting with Nausicaa – “Are you some goddess or a mortal woman?” “It is Artemis… your beauty reminds me.” Secondly, Odysseus is very good at begging; he knows the right way for everything – e.g. the meeting with Arete and Alcinous in Book 7 – “They all applaud his speech and agree the stranger should be escorted home.” Thirdly, Odysseus is persuasive and makes people like him – Alcinous is ready to give him “a house and riches” if he marries Nausicaa. Lastly, he knows how to defend himself when challenged or offended – Book 8 Odysseus “talks sense”.
On the other side in Books 5-8, Odysseus is often described as weak and not perfect. The first time when we meet him in Book 5, he is “sitting disconsolately… with steaming eyes”. So despite being a hero and a tough man, he weeps, and he misses home, wife and son. He seems heartbroken and lost far from his people, and emotionally weak. So when Calypso informs him that he is to leave Ogygia, Odysseus can’t believe it – he feels a mixture of excitement and desperation, showing his broken spirit.
Later Odysseus overcomes the battle with Poseidon, but on the other side, Ino helps him to do so. Indeed when the wave crashes down on him, his “knees shook, and his spirit failed”. It seems that his death is inevitable, and Odysseus almost “give up”. He wishes solid to have “met his fate” in the Trojan War. That is not the way one king and hero should think – Odysseus lacks braveness and toughness. The storm is not the only place where a god helps Odysseus. Most of the time, Athene organizes things to happen the right way. It seems as Odysseus doesn’t need to do anything – he should sit and wait for something to happen – e.g. “At this, they all shrieked.”
Then Odysseus awakes and sees the Nausicaa sent by the disguised Athene. The real hero always makes the decisions by himself and acts bravely. This behavior continues in the Palace of Alcinous. Firstly, his heart is “filled with emotions”. Secondly, Odysseus looks pathetic – he begs and kneels. It is usual for strangers to do so, but Odysseus is the most famous hero from the Trojan War and King of Ithaca. At first, he does not behave as a nobleman, but this changes quickly.
Odysseus starts to speak more and more bravely, and in Book 8, he seems rather arrogant and bold – “I claim to be by far the best,” and he is ready “to compete with the men of the past” like Heracles. The change is quite sudden – it happens once Odysseus has assured himself a bed and food. To sum up, Odysseus has many admirable qualities – he is clever, strong, handsome, courteous and a good orator. However, he is not a god but rather a mortal man. That is why sometimes he looks sad, weak and arrogant. What makes him a hero is that he overcomes his negative characteristics (sometimes with Athene’s help) and continues his struggle to reach home – “It’s my never-failing wish”.
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