How does Homer's portrayal of Odysseus redefine heroism with qualities of thoughtfulness and consideration?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Homer's depiction of Odysseus redefines heroism in a unique manner.  Contrary to the war fighting arete of Achilles, Odysseus is shown as a "thinking man's hero."  Odysseus is portrayed in a manner that shows a sense of thoughtfulness.  This thoughtfulness is reflected in how thoroughly Odysseus uses his mind to solve problems. He is thoughtful in the how he thinks through problems and situations.  It is for this reason that Achilles needs his guile and sense of skill in negotiation and planning.  Odysseus is the only force that can bring Achilles from his stance against Agamemnon and back towards fighting.  Odysseus is described as thoughtful by the Trojans, as well, who suggests that his words are like "flakes of snow in a winter blizzard," reflective of thoughtfulness and judicious care.  Odysseus might not be heroic in his exploits on the battlefield, which are very considerable and worthy. Yet, his strength is his ability to consider situations and be thoughtful of them.  Odysseus recognizes danger and understands the need to move from it, making him a more thoughtful and considerate hero.  He understands that his chances are not good with Helen, and thus he tactfully withdraws from consideration.  The planning element that is seen in the "gift" to Troy that ends up dooming the Trojans is Odysseus' best example of his thoughtful consideration towards problems.  Odysseus ability to consider all sides of a problem and think through a solution to it are where he is fundamentally different than the traditionally Classical hero.  He is shown to be a thinker, a problem solver, one who uses his mind more than any other muscle to define success.

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