A hero, as defined by the dictionary, is someone recognized for their exceptional accomplishments. However, popular opinion describes a hero as someone who selflessly helps others. In Homer’s “The Odyssey,” the protagonist Odysseus meets the dictionary’s criteria for a hero but fails to fulfill the public’s expectations of true heroism.
Despite participating in the Trojan War, Odysseus is depicted as lacking selflessness and not being seen as a hero. This can be attributed to his egotistical nature and disregard for the values and needs of others. Various examples illustrate Odysseus’ self-centeredness, especially his inclination to dismiss advice from others.
Circe advised Odysseus not to fight Scylla, even if she took six of his men. However, Odysseus disregarded this advice and ended up losing three more men than the initial six. To add to his errors, Odysseus neglected the counsel of his crew member, Eurylochus. Despite Eurylochus warning him not to send men to explore Circe’s island, Odysseus did so anyway, resulting in their unfortunate transformation into pigs.
By taking action against the warning given to him, Odysseus reveals his disregard for the lives of others. This can be witnessed in his futile attempt to fight Scylla, resulting in the loss of three additional men alongside the initial six casualties. Moreover, he jeopardized his crew’s safety by lingering at the Cyclops’ dwelling in hopes of receiving “gifts.” It is evident that Odysseus exhibited selfishness, a trait uncommonly found in genuine heroes.
Odysseus demonstrates a deficiency in the aspect of heroism that involves possessing a kind heart. This is evident through his actions, which include indiscriminate killing and lacking compassion. Cold-bloodedly, Odysseus eliminates all the suitors, many of whom did not commit offenses deserving capital punishment. He also displays no mercy towards the maids who were victimized by the suitors, disregarding their lack of agency in the situation. Additionally, Odysseus exhibits little concern for his fellow crew members. For instance, when Elpenor tragically falls from Circe’s house roof, Odysseus does not bother to provide him with a proper burial nor defend his crew members.
Despite Odysseus displaying disloyalty and a cold-hearted nature, he retained his status as a hero. In the Cyclops’ dwelling, he failed to protect his comrades, resulting in their untimely demise and consumption. Additionally, during his journey, he engaged in extramarital relationships with various women. Despite being married to Penelope, Odysseus had multiple encounters with her on Calypso’s Island. Likewise, during his extended stay on Circe’s island, he also encountered her repeatedly. While Odysseus showcased disloyalty, his wife Penelope remained faithfully devoted even when the suitors attempted to coerce her into marrying another man. Her unwavering loyalty persisted even amidst the belief that Odysseus had perished.
Odysseus had no reason to be unfaithful to his devoted wife, so infidelity should not tarnish a hero’s reputation. While he is hailed as a war hero, Odysseus lacks heroism in other aspects of his character. This is evident through his self-centeredness, shown by disregarding the lives of others and committing unlawful killings and neglecting his crew members’ well-being. Additionally, he fails to demonstrate the loyalty expected of a true hero by engaging in extramarital affairs while his wife remains faithful. Clearly, Odysseus does not possess the essential attributes found in heroes – selflessness and acting from the goodness of their heart.