How does Odysseus overcome the monster through clever use of language?

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In book 9 of Homer’s Odyssey, the protagonist Odysseus devises an intelligent plan to kill the monster. The monster, called by the name Polyphemus or Cyclops, kills and eats Odysseus’ men in the cave. Odysseus waits for the right time to take action. The next day after Polyphemus leaves the cave in the morning, Odysseus and his men carve a piece of wood into a pointed weapon and hide it. When Polyphemus returns back, Odysseus stops him from killing more men and offers him wine that he had brought with him. Polyphemus likes the wine and asks Odysseus his name. Odysseus tells him he is “nobody”. The monster drinks all of the wine and falls asleep. Taking advantage of his condition, Odysseus hits the monster’s eye hard with the pointed object. When the monster screeches in pain, others come in and ask him the cause of his condition. He replies that nobody is killing me.

But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, ‘Noman is killing me by fraud; no man is killing me by force.

Polyphemus actually refers to Odysseus’ fake name, but everybody takes the word literally and leaves. In this way, Odysseus makes clever use of language to tackle the monster.

cherrychuuu | Student

Odysseus overcomes Polyphemus, the monster, through his clever use of language by giving a false name when asked. Polyphemus, who had trapped, killed and eaten several of Odysseus' men, is given wine until he is drunk. He asks for Odysseus' name, who responds with the fake name "Nobody."

When Polyphemus falls asleep, Odysseus takes this chance to stab his eye and blind him so that he is unable to see and kill more of the latter's men. The monster reacts loudly at this, and when other Cyclopes ask him what happened, he answers by saying that "Nobody" has done this to him.

The others, who take "Nobody" literally instead of the false identity of Odysseus, pay no more heed to the blind monster since they believe that nothing has happened to him. 

Polyphemus, now blind and helpless, releases his flock to graze. Since he is blind, he cannot see Odysseus and his remaining men clinging to the bottom of the sheep as they exit his cave. They then successfully escape where they had been stuck for days.

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The Odyssey

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