I feel that Odysseus can be a hero at some times and very selfish at other times. During the war in Troy, Odysseus was a true hero, as he thought elegantly and cared for his men well. However, in books 9, 10 and 12, Odysseus is definitely not playing the role of a hero among his crew. Odysseus was a bad hero because he constantly put his own curiosity above the well-being of his men. For instance, he got them into the Cyclops dilemma because he wanted to know what was on their island. . When they were in the land of the Cyclops, Odysseus refused to simply raid the cave and leave. He would rather have risked the lives of his men and stay to be foolish.
When they arrive on Circe’s island, Odysseus sends a group of his men to go find out who lives in Circe’s house. The group of men gets turned into pigs, and he takes the rest of his men to go rescue them. They end up spending a year with Circe, which they wouldn’t have if Odysseus had just set sail without exploring the island. If Odysseus was a hero, he wouldn’t just think about himself, but others too. And then in book ten, while the men were on the island of Circe, Odysseus was most unfaithful to his wife. He succumbed to the seduction of Circe and didn’t have a second thought about it. If he had been thinking about Penelope, he could have found another method to get her to release his men from her spell. On almost any page you turn to in the book, you can find some act of selfishness coming from Odysseus.
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Also, Odysseus has a lot of pride. When he leaves the island of the Cyclopes, he shouts back to Polyphemus that his true name is Odysseus and brags about how he bested him. If Odysseus had kept his mouth shut, his men would have been able to sail away easily, and Polyphemus would never have known his true name (because he thought his name was Nobody). If he hadn’t known his name, he wouldn’t have been able to ask his father Poseidon to curse Odysseus, causing him to either die or if he did not die, to lose the rest of his crew and return home to find trouble. So because Odysseus wanted to brag about besting Polyphemus, he indirectly caused his entire crew to be sentenced to death.
One of the things that make Odysseus a hero is that he is favoured by the gods. In the Odyssey, the gods help Odysseus many times. When Poseidon struck Odysseus’ ship with lightning, Odysseus was able to survive because a goddess named Ino gave him a magical cloak. The cloak prevents Odysseus from drowning. When Odysseus’ men are turned into swine by Circe, Hermes the messenger god gives Odysseus a magical herb that prevents Circe from using her spells on him. Due to this Odysseus was able to gain favour in Circe’s eyes and he convinced her to turn his men back to normal. The reason why the gods help him on many occasions is that he has respect for them. Any hero would have respect for the gods, as Odysseus did.
Overall, I think while Odysseus has the intelligence and strength of a hero, he still experiences emotional pain and struggles with life just as any human being does. The emotional and physical trauma he experiences are the characteristics of an ordinary man, which keep him human and easier to relate with. Odysseus was not a perfect hero and had his bad days. Not surprisingly, twenty years of hardships took their toll. Sometimes he was simply, “wretched and miserable…” (62). While on the island with Calypso, for instance, he really missed his own home, and this left him with a sorrow that at times could overcome even his strongest heroic qualities. What really shows that he is a hero is that he never gave up.