How is Odysseus different from other men and how is he similar to ordinary men in The Odyssey?

Expert Answers
iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Odysseus is at once both an epic hero and a surprisingly human (i.e. fallible) protagonist. Paradoxically, both of these qualities come into play during the Cyclops episode in Book 9.

In this adventure, Odysseus and his men are captured by the dastardly Polyphemus, a Cyclops who tries to eat the Greeks alive. Odysseus, however, displays his cunning by getting the Cyclops drunk and using word games and riddles to avoid revealing his true identity as the king of Ithaca. Thus, we see the attribute that most distinguishes Odysseus is his uncommon intelligence. Indeed, Odysseus is most famous for coming up with the Trojan Horse, a tactic that ended the decade-long war with Troy. Therefore, Odysseus is far more intelligent than the average man, and this quality elevates him to a heroic status.

However, like other men, Odysseus is prone to pride and arrogance, and this quality also comes into play during the Cyclops adventure. Though Odysseus and his men escape the monster's lair, the haughty king can't resist needlessly taunting the blinded Polyphemus. This tactical error incurs the wrath of Poseidon, Polyphemus' father, who then makes a point of waylaying Odysseus and his men with a series of mishaps, seriously delaying Odysseus' homecoming. Thus, while Odysseus' intelligence sets him apart, his arrogance and pride make him strikingly similar to normal people. As such, though he's undoubtedly epic, Odysseus is actually often an incredibly human and relatable hero. 

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Odysseus seems to have stronger leadership and more nobility than most men. This is part of what makes him the epic hero as he fulfills that larger than life definition. For example, he communicates with gods, he controls his men when with them, he properly defeated over 100 men in pursuit of his wife and property, and he doesn't give consent in his heart when he is with the goddesses.

In terms of ordinary men, Odysseus is loyal to his family, seeking to get home just to be a father and husband. He hopes to find success, but didn't necessarily long for the great scaled success he eventually had in overcoming those obstacles. He demonstrated weakness by being too arrogant with the Cyclops which caused greater problems because you just don't mess with higher powers.

Read the study guide:
The Odyssey

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question