Personal Growth and Improvement as Reflected in Homer’s The Odyssey

In a person’s life, it is usually the hardships and troubles which make him or her stronger. In most cases, people look at these experiences as challenges that make a person tougher and more resistant to failure. In literature, this concept of life’s challenges and trials has been a prevalent thematic focus. Perhaps, this is because this theme offers the readers a perceived inspiration and aid which give them a more positive outlook towards the hardships of life. A lot of heroes and protagonists embody a tough and strong character that is able to withstand and face hurdles head on, which has consequently inspired and stirred the hearts of the readers. Such characters are depicted in literary works which are founded on the idea that life is but a world of tests and struggles. The most common feature of these kinds of literary pieces is that they promote the importance of strength in order to achieve optimal growth and development as a better individual. A tale which can be a good example of this attribute is The Odyssey by Homer. It stars a long-renowned literary hero, Odysseus, who went through the most adventurous voyages and the most trying challenges and temptations of life. The epic also depicts how Odysseus’ adventures were able to mold and define him as a strong, infallible, and an undefeatable hero.

Thematic Overview: Personal Growth and Improvement

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Odysseus was not born an undefeatable and mighty king and warrior as how he was seen in his epics. His beginnings as a person were not as potent and as insuperable as how he became after all his adventures. Just like all the typical and average characters in literary works, Odysseus never accomplished his might and power without going through the toughest and the most challenging times.

Odysseus was known as the mind of the Greek army in the mystic tales of Greek mythology. Unlike Achilles who was considered as the ultimate warrior, Odysseus was regarded more like the cunning and the clever hero who devised the brightest and smartest attack plans which paved way for the victory of the Greek army (Phillips and Hunter, “Plot Overview”). During his adventures, he faced the most grueling times, the most deceiving tests, and the most trying temptations. Aside from these, he faced a lot of enemies, monsters, and a lot of other events which made him tougher and more intelligent in his quest to survive and protect his nation and his beloved family.

The Odyssey, aside from being a story of heroic fights, combats, and adventures, is also a tale of personal growth and improvement as embodied by Odysseus’ character. He is depicted as a man who has strong faith and belief that he will be able to fight for and protect his nation. With this ideal in mind, he faced and dared every challenge and test that came his way with utmost willingness and courage. As a mortal, he experienced being defeated and mocked by his enemies who appeared to have sharper skills and stronger combating abilities than what he possessed; however all these did not stop him from achieving his ultimate objective which was to live a peaceful life with his family and rule and protect his beloved nation.

The Odyssey is filled with dynamic battles and endless trials which challenged not just Odysseus’ physical abilities but also his bright thinking and strategic prowess. In one part of the story, as Odysseus was on his way back to Ithaca to his wife and son, he retold his adventures to the Phaeacians. This part reveals the details of Odysseus’ journeys and quests such as the monsters he fought, the places he explored, the attacks he survived, and the temptations he tried to resist. It shows what Odysseus went through that shaped him to become the person that he was during that time. The Phaeacians discovered what challenges Odysseus had to face in order to develop such force, strength, cleverness, and might which people look up to as the ideal qualities of an ultimate hero. Hence, in several ways, The Odyssey depicts a kind of story which tells about how an ideal character is developed through the tough challenges that he goes through. It features the means by which a man develops from an average warrior into a mighty hero and savior of his nation as he overcomes the hurdles during his adventures and voyages. These trials and challenges which are reflected in the stories of Odysseus journey all serve as the stepping stones which made Odysseus’ strength, abilities, faith, and his overall individuality sharper and better. It is through these tests and obstacles that Odysseus’ ingenuity became well-developed, and through these difficult tasks and problems, his physical abilities improved. Indeed, a hero like Odysseus may not be innately born just like how they are being portrayed in tales; however, a story like this implies that a hero like Odysseus can be developed and made through the challenges and tests in life, which serve as the foundation of one’s individuality.

The Odyssey enumerates the kind of challenges which appear inescapable experiences in life which ought to make people wiser, stronger, and more courageous. Generally, it speaks of the reality that men could never be the ideal person that they want to be without going through some tough and trying times through which their survival and competitive skills would develop—the skills which one needs in order to attain his goals and be a better person. In one way or another, this story also relays a lesson that a great man never acquires his strength, prowess, and skills without hard work and courage. Personal development and improvement appears to be only attainable in situation which challenges people’s abilities and extent of endurance. This is deemed necessary to enable them to improve their abilities in facing tougher and more difficult situations in the future, and this ideal has been very evident in Odysseus’ journeys. Looking at these depictions and portrayals in The Odyssey, it can be said that it is more than an epic and a tale of adventures and voyages. Indeed, it is a tale which tells a lesson that one’s struggles and challenges faced in life are the core of a sharpened, developed, and improved individuality.

Other Factors which Molded Odysseus’s Strong Character

Homer’s The Odyssey appears to be a consistent material of literary studies. The character of Odysseus has always been perceived as the ideal hero: smart, mighty, and cunning. His abilities, compared to the typical heroes of the Greek mythology, are undeniably more of the intellectual and strategic in nature, which can be considered one of a kind and hard to achieve. From the aforementioned discussions and revelations, it can be inferred that it is his experiences, struggles, and challenges which made him the great hero. However, considering Odysseus’ journeys and adventures, it appears that it was not only his experiences which helped him become a better man and a better warrior. Aside from these experiences, much about Odysseus’ life is unveiled in the story, which appears to have contributed to the development of his strong and mighty personality.

His undying faith in his comrades as well as his strong belief in his skills and the gods’ guidance on him greatly helped in developing the courageous and unbreakable character of Odysseus. This attribute has been tested several times, but he never once failed. His faith in his troupe and in his own strengths and abilities never failed him, and this pushed him to achieve each victory and success that he earned. Odysseus faced a lot of monsters, creatures, and mighty enemies on his voyage with Achilles and the Greek army. However, there was no single point wherein Odysseus showed any sign of fear or hesitation. He, together with the rest of the army, battled against all odds as well as fought all the enemies that blocked their way to victory. Odysseus’ unwavering faith and steadfast confidence on his comrades and his own abilities indeed aided in developing a much greater and mightier personality and individuality which made him the ideal epic hero everyone looks up to until today.

Another aspect in Odysseus’s life which became his driving force to become a dignified and respected man is his close relationship with his family. In The Odysseus, Odysseus’ relationship with his loving wife, Penelope, is mentioned several times. Also, details about and descriptions of his son Telemachus’ adoration and admiration for his father are presented (Phillips and Hunter). This gives the readers an idea of how bonded Odysseus is with his family. This bond and the love they shared are also presented as one of the strongest forces which aided Odysseus to succeed in all his endeavors and hence be a better warrior and individual. The story is full of Odysseus’ hopes of coming home safe and successful to his son and wife. Their love for one another as a family also served as his hope that whatever challenge he faced, he would always reign victorious and eventually be able to go home to his family who would always be proud of him.

These aspects of Odysseus’ life and personality are some of the factors which suggest how Odysseus was able to acquire such a developed and well-molded character. These things are the shaping factors which aided Odysseus in achieving such a mighty and respected personality. His hardships, together with his inspirations as well as his faith and hope, led him his victory and return to his homeland Ithaca. Thus, in several ways, this story also poses a lesson that people should take into account: challenges are necessary in life in order to develop better and stronger individualities. Also, the story relays a significant message that heroes are not always born as what typical Greek epics tell; rather, they are made through challenges and hardships, with some amount of inspiration, faith, and hope.

Works Cited

Phillips, Brian and Hunter, James. “The Odyssey, Homer: Plot Overview.” 24 March 2009 <>.

Phillips, Brian and Hunter, James. “The Odyssey, Homer: Themes, Motifs and Symbols.” 24 March 2009 <>.


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