Odysseues and his flaws
In Homer's Odyssey, the great protagonist is Odysseus, a man who departed from his home to fight the Trojan War and who comes back after twenty years to find his household overtaken by lofty and contemptuous suitors courting his wife Penelope against her will. Throughout his journey, this rich and complex character battles life's temptations towards purification, since he must overcome his sins and flaws in order to obtain redemption from the gods, thus returning home to his throne on the island of Ithaca. However, this purification process and Odysseus' chances of returning home are compromised by his flaws and those of his crew, while enhanced by the many virtues and qualities he possesses. This voyage symbolizes man's road to salvation hoping to obtain God's forgiveness and entrance into his kingdom, and Odysseus incarnates man's soul, representing life and the return to God and faith.
In spite of his being an epic hero, and as such, superior to common men, Odysseus remains imperfect, with flaws and weaknesses like all other mortals. The consequences of these flaws are the wrath of certain gods, like Poseidon, who bears a grudge against Odysseus since the Trojan War, and the prolonging of his voyage back to Ithaca. Some of Odysseus' flaws are pride, curiosity, and lack of vigilance. The first flaw which Odysseus displays is pride. At the end of the Trojan War, he boldly defies the gods by loudly declaring that he was the sole artisan of his victory and that he didn't receive any help from the gods, when this isn't true since Poseidon sent a sea serpent to kill one of the enemies of Odysseus just before he was going to check the content of the Trojan Horse, which would have gotten him and all his men killed. This pride is a reoccurring element in the plot, since it is also what leads Odysseus to vociferate his invincibility and to reveal his real name as he leaves Polymachus the Cyclops' island, increasing Poseidon's anger at him, since the Cyclops' are his children.
Another flaw of Odysseus is curiosity. One episode where he displays this weakness is when he and his crew are sailing in the sea of the Sirens and, after sticking wax up the ears of all the crew members so they couldn't listen, Odysseus insists upon being attached firmly to the mast just so he could hear the enchanting songs of the mermaids. Although there are no consequences to this particular venture, Odysseus still jeopardizes the crew for satisfaction of his personal motives, a very pernicious thing for a leader.
Furthermore, a third flaw Odysseus manifests is lack of vigilance. This occurs when Odysseus decides to take a solitary walk to pray and be alone for awhile, leaving his emaciated crew on Helios' island with all the cattle he'd warned them not to touch and of course, they are in the midst of grand celebrities when he comes back, eating, drinking, and are finally enjoying themselves after so long of misery and hunger. Odysseus can but regret and lament at their fate, knowing he is the indirect cause of their death, since the rest of the crew would never have followed Eurymachus, another crew member, in his folly had he been present. In conclusion, Odysseus has flaws and negative character traits like the rest of us, proving that no one in the crib of humanity is perfect.
Although Odysseus has his share of responsibility in the incessant delays of his return to Ithaca, the crew is equally, if not more, accountable and guilty of their master's belated comeback. They represent man's sins and weaknesses, and they eventually pay with their lives because of their flaws. Three of the crew's faults are their constant drunkenness, their mutinous nature, and their gluttony. The first flaw mentioned is the crew's drunkenness. One case where this becomes a problem is on the island of the Cicones, when they drink, going against Odysseus' strict orders not to do so. The consequence of this is that the Cicones come back with support and easily inflict a shameful and costing victory to Odysseus' men.
Another weakness of the crew is their disobedient nature. They display this fault several times during the course of the plot, the most dramatic one being opening the sack of wind, which Aeolus the god of winds had given to their master, against his austere orders when they were just miles from home and Ithaca was in sight. The winds released from the sac immediately blow the boat off course and far from Ithaca, where they could have arrived if they'd obeyed. A third and final impurity of the crew is their gluttony. They demonstrate this flaw in the episode on Helios' island, when they butcher the cattle of the sun god instead of being patient and resistant to hunger, ignoring Odysseus' warnings and ultimately paying with their lives for their appetite since Helios asks Zeus to kill all those who participated in the killing, which he does, yet sparing Odysseus who was taking a walk when the butchering happened. Hence, one can clearly see how these three flaws show the nefariousness and flagitious nature of the crew, who symbolically embody man's sinful nature.
To complement his flaws, Odysseus has many qualities which give him his wisdom and skill and earn him the favor of the powerful goddess Athena. Some of these numerous attributes he possesses are pity, his respect of the gods, and his courageousness. The first virtue mentioned is pity. This quality contributes to making Odysseus seem more human, since pity is a social characteristic felt and perceived by the heart. An example of a time when Odysseus experiences and demonstrates pity is when he leads the crew past Scylla and Charybdis and feels sorry for the six men Scylla devours. A result of this is that his men respect and cherish him more. A second characteristic of Odysseus is his respect and sacrificial ceremonies to the gods. This is shown in the adventure in the Land of the Dead, where Odysseus goes through a series of sacrifices to be able to speak to the spirit of the dead, and the blind prophet Tiresias. A final example of Odysseus' virtues is his courage. He makes use of this quality all throughout his journey to survive, but more specifically when he leads his crew past the two horrendous monsters of Scylla and Charybdis, knowing that at least six of his men would die, but daring to affront the creatures and pass rather than stay on an island and lose all hope of reaching Ithaca someday. Thus, these virtues all contribute to Odysseus' success in reaching home and acquire this wise, enduring man the sympathy of the Olympians.
The epic hero is the central character of an epic or poetic story. He possesses qualities superior to those of most men, yet he remains recognizably human through his flaws and weaknesses. Throughout Odysseus' voyage, he makes use of his virtues and tries to reduce the effect of his flaws by setting the example and monitoring his crew as intolerantly as possible, while remaining human and understanding. He undergoes a hero's journey, battling life's temptations and man's sinful nature to stay on the right path and be able to reach his island of Ithaca. This voyage symbolizes man's road towards purification and road towards salvation to obtain God's forgiveness and enter his divine and holy kingdom of heaven. This epic written by a Greek author, Homer, during ancient times remains a modern and contemporary one through its tale of the road towards redemption, deliverance, and pardon.
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