The Odyssey: Is Odysseus Really a Hero?
Odysseus can be portrayed as an antihero in The Odyssey - The Odyssey: Is Odysseus Really a Hero? introduction. A hero is clever, respectful, brave, and shows mercy. Odysseus is the complete opposite of a hero. He is immature, barbaric, unfaithful, and a coward. Being faithful, or loyal, is one of the main aspects of being a hero. Book V shows us that Odysseus might not have been so faithful to Penelope: “Now as he spoke the sun set, dusk drew on/ and they retired, this pair, to the inner cave/ to revel and rest softly, side by side” (5. 234-236) This quote describes Odysseus with Kalypso, before he left her cave to return to Ithaka. Resting softly, side by side” might mean more than what Homer is giving us. Odysseus is also very immature and childish. After tricking the Kyklops, Polyphemos, his men run for the ships. Odysseus is so proud of himself; he dares to shout back at the Kyklops: “Kyklops/ if ever mortal man inquire/ how you were put to shame and blinded, tell him/ Odysseus, raider of cities, took your eye:/ Laertes’ son, whose home’s on Ithaka! ”(9. 548-552) His rant made the Kyklops angry and he prayed to his father, Poseidon, to kill Odysseus. Poseidon then destroyed Odysseus’ ship, killing everyone on board but him.
His immature behavior cost him his crew and his time. Odysseus is also a coward. Instead of fighting Polyphemos, he ran away to his ship. He should have fought the monster and showed his men how brave he was, but he ran: “The blind thing in his doubled fury broke/ a hilltop in his hands and heaved it after us. / Ahead of our black prow it struck and sank/ whelmed in a spuming geyser, a giant wave/ that washed the ship stern foremost back to shore. / I got the longest boathook out and stood/ fending us off, with furious nods to all to put their backs into a racing stroke-/ row, row, or perish.
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So the long oars bent/ kicking the foam sternward, making head/ until we drew away, and twice as far. ”(9. 524-534) Odysseus and his men could have killed that one Kyklops. Instead, the scared leader led his men away. Another antihero trait is showing no mercy. Odysseus shows this trait two times. The first time is with an unlucky suitor who tries to get out of being killed: “’Mercy,/ mercy on a suppliant, Odysseus! / Never by word or act of mine, I swear. / was any woman troubled here. I told them the rest/ to put an end to it. They would not listen,/ would not keep their hands from brutishness,/ and now they are all dying like dogs for it. I had no part in what they did: my part/ was visionary–reading the smoke of sacrifice. / Scruples go unrewarded if I die. ’/ The shrewd fighter frowned over him and said:/ ‘You were diviner to this crowd? How often/ you must have prayed my sweet day of return/ would never come, or not for years! —and prayed/ to have my dear wife, and beget children on her. / No plea like yours could save you/ from this hard bed of death. Death it shall be! ’/ He picked up Agelaos’ broadsword/ from where it lay, flung by the slain man,/ and gave Leodes’ neck a lopping blow/ so that his head went down to mouth the dust. (22. 350-370) Another example of Odysseus showing no mercy is when he makes the maids, who slept with the suitors, clean up the dead bodies and wash the furniture. Then they were to be executed: “As he spoke/ here came the women in a bunch, all wailing,/ soft tears on their cheeks. They fell to work/ to lug the corpses out into the courtyard/ under the gateway, propping one/ against another as Odysseus ordered,/ for he himself stood over them. In fear/ these woman bore the cold weight of the dead. / The next thing was to scrub off chairs and tables/ and rinse them down.
Telemakhos and the herdsman/ scraped the packed earth floor with hoes, but made/ the woman carry out all blood and mire. / When the great room was cleaned up once again,/ at swordpoint they forced them out, between/ the roundhouse and the palisade, pell-mell/ to huddle in that dead end without exit. / Telemakhos, who knew his mind, said curtly:/ ‘I would not give the clean death of a beast/ to trulls who made a mockery of my mother/ and of me too—you sluts, who lay with suitors. ’/ He tied one end of a hawser to a pillar/ and passed the other about the roundhouse top,/ taking the slack up, so that no one’s toes/ could touch the ground.
They would be hung like doves/ or larks in springes triggered in a thicket,/ where the birds think to rest—a cruel nesting. / So now in turn each women thrust her head/ into a noose and swung, yanked high in air,/ to perish there most piteously. / Their feet danced for a little, but not long”(22. 497-526) Through these examples, Odysseus is clearly an antihero. He may have some heroic traits, but most are antihero. His immaturity, cowardliness, infidelity, and showing no mercy proves that he is, in fact, an antihero.