In The Odyssey, how does the character of Odysseus change from the beginning of his quest until the end?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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To answer this question we need to understand that one of the key desires of Odysseus as a character, which is a desire that he shares with all Homeric heroes, is the desire to gain glory through his exploits and deeds. At various points through the text, we see the way in which Odysseus rather arrogantly ignores the advice of different characters or does what he thinks is best without thinking about the consequences of his actions and what might happen to both himself, and to his men, as a result. The best example of this is when, at the start of his wanderings, Odysseus was so focussed on gaining glory that he deliberately revealed who he was to the Cyclops, and as a result brought down calamity on both himself and his men because of Poseidon's special relationship to the Cyclops.

However, by the end of the story, when he reaches Ithaca, the way in which he deliberately bides his time and disguises himself as a beggar instead of rushing into his home and declaring who he was before the group of extremely hostile suitors shows how he has developed and changed. He is not the same glory-hungry individual who often committed rash and rather vacuous actions in order to gain kudos. Instead, he tempers this aspect of his character with the need for patience, and remains incognito until he has established his position and what men are loyal to him and he is ready to strike. The text therefore indicates that Odysseus as a character very definitely learns from his mistakes and develops during the course of the epic.