The blinding sunshine, the delineation of pride and bravery, veins straining from the bulging muscles, dodging every obstruction, when men cower in fright, a figure of illustriousness and a leader of bravery strives to return home. In Homer’s heroic poem, The Odyssey, Odysseus, the central character of the epic, applies his strengths, leadership skills, and his determination to make his way back home, escaping from flesh-eating one-eyed giants, arrogant informers, and violent vortexes and sea monsters.
Odysseus and his crew face impossible challenges on his journey back home, but with Odysseus’ leadership, they prevail. Approaching Scylla and Charybdis, a violent storm and sea monster, the crew trembles in fear, doubting their ability. Odysseus, never second-guessing, asks, “Friends, have we never been in danger before this? More awful, is it now than when the Cyclops penned us in his cave?” (766-768), inspiring the hopeless men. With his strong authority, they prepare for the wrath of the fierce Scylla and Charybdis.
When they reach the cows of the Sun God, Odysseus warns his crew, “Old shipmates, our supplies are in the ship’s hold, food, and drink; the cows here are not for our provision, or we pay in a heartfelt way for it” (838-840), but Eurylochus, a stubborn crew member, convinces the rest of the crew otherwise. Warning his crew and keeping them from danger embodies a trait of a true leader. By the time Odysseus reaches home, he catches a glimpse of his weary dog, Argus.
Each and every day, he moves one step closer to death. “But when he [knows] he [hears] Odysseus’ voice nearby, he did his best to wag his tail, intrude down, with flattened ears, having no strength to move nearer his master” (1176-1179).
Since he was a puppy, Odysseus trained him well, raising Argus. Training and fostering his puppy represent how Argus obeys and respects Odysseus, and Odysseus towers over Argus as his master. Odysseus, a true leader, embodies the shadow of an epic hero by being in charge and top dog on his ship. With Odysseus’ skills and physical ability, he conquers the challenges he faces, testing his abilities, patience, and cunning. Before he reaches the island of the Lotus-Eaters, he loses six benches of men fighting the outnumbering Cicones.
When getting onto a new island, he uses his marbles by “[directing] two picked workforces and a smuggler to learn what race of men that land sustained” (92-93), knowing he could not lose any more of his crew. The Cyclops Polyphemus challenges Odysseus, trapping him in his cave. Odysseus devises a plan to escape.
First, he introduces himself. “Everyone [calls] me Nohbdy” (315-316). When Polyphemus drinks the spirits Odysseus offers, the strength of the spirits knocks him out, allowing Odysseus to blind his vision. When Polyphemus calls for aid from the other Cyclopes, he roars that “nobody” struck him, leaving the other giants bewildered. Thinking ahead, the name works perfectly, and his intelligence proves successful in his determination to escape.
When Odysseus finally reaches home, he hears many suitors beg for Penelope’s hand in marriage. The leader of the arrogant suitors, Antinous, throws a chair at Odysseus, who disguises himself as a beggar with Athena’s help. Testing Odysseus’ patience, he stands silently, keeping his anger in check. With his skill, Odysseus shoots Antinous effortlessly, taking revenge with no doubts.
“Odysseus’ arrow hit him under the chin and punched up to the feathers through his throat” (1419-25), causing a stream of bitter blood. With wise thought and archery precision, Odysseus saves most of his men from Polyphemus’ treachery, the Lotus-Eaters, and reunites with his love, Penelope. Odysseus’ leadership and strength aid him in his time of need, but his determination is the foundation of his journey home.
The Cyclops’ cave challenges Odysseus’ skills, mind, and physical ability. With willpower, “[Odysseus] drew on all [his] marbles and ran through tactics, reasoning as a man fighting for beloved life, until a trick came—and it pleased [him] well” (373-377), giving him the chance to escape. Saving his men by hiding under the bellies of rams, they fled Calypso Island. When they escaped, Polyphemus curses Odysseus, “Let him lose all comrades and return under strange canvas to bitter days at home” (492-493), but that did not stop Odysseus and his crew.
To restore order to Ithaca, Odysseus needs his beloved, Penelope, but when he returns after twenty years, Athena notifies Odysseus about suitors who are overrunning his house to win the hand of Penelope. With pride and unwillingness to give up, “he came to this wild place, directed by Athena, so that they might set plans to kill their enemies” (1080-1084), determined to capture Penelope’s heart once again, even disguised as an old beggar.
Determination brought Odysseus home to his family with joyful days at home, completing his hero’s journey. Guiding the way home, Odysseus’ leadership inspires and motivates his crew. Learning from his mistakes, his intellectual ability keeps him out of trouble. Physical strength makes him mighty like any other hero, but his strength of mind, like a bow, binds all his abilities together to come home safely after twenty years. Odysseus, the true epic hero of The Odyssey, embodies strength, leadership, and determination, critical to conquering every obstacle to reach home to his son, Telemachus, his loyal wife Penelope, and his land.