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What false name does Odysseus give the Cyclops in "The Odyssey"?

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angelswif3y | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 26, 2008 at 11:26 AM via web

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What false name does Odysseus give the Cyclops in "The Odyssey"?

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 12, 2008 at 10:36 AM (Answer #1)

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Depending on what translation you read, the name is either "Nobody" or "No man".  Either way, it is a clever trick on the side of Odysseus.  He wants to answer the Cyclops question, in order to keep the other talking, but he doesn't want to give away his identity.  Odysseus himself, man of ego and hubris, is portrayed by Homer as a character who would particularly enjoy this joke.  When he harms Prometheus (the Cyclops), it would be amusing to him that the Cyclops would say "No man hurt me."  Here is a direct quote:

‘Cyclops, you ask my name and I will tell it you; give me, therefore, the present you promised me; my name is Noman; this is what my father and mother and my friends have always called me.’

“But the cruel wretch said, ‘Then I will eat all Noman's comrades before Noman himself, and will keep Noman for the last. This is the present that I will make him.’

This is also an example of verbal irony.  When Cyclops says "I will keep Noman for the last", it sounds like he isn't going to have any person for "the last".  In fact, he means Odysseus, and he'll eat Odysseus last.  This contradiction is what makes it irony.

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