Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Odysseus is a flawed hero because he is human and imperfect. For example, his pride can get the better of him, causing some errors in judgment that endanger his own life and the lives of his men. When they sail away from the Island of the Cyclopes, Odysseus's pride and desire for glory compels him to tell Polyphemus his real name. He wants credit for having bested the monster. Armed with this information, the Cyclops is able to pray to his powerful father, Poseidon, god of the seas, and render Odysseus's journey home to Ithaca nearly impossible and certainly painful (out of his crew, everyone but Odysseus dies). Further, Odysseus so angers the man-monster that the Cyclops rips off mountaintops and hurls them at the ship, nearly driving it back to shore where he can set upon the men. Later, Odysseus is too proud to tell his men what Aeolus, the king of the winds, gave him in the sack, and so his men wait until he falls asleep and then open it, hopeful that it will contain riches which they can parcel out among themselves. Had he saw fit to tell them it was simply full of winds which would drive them from their home, they would likely have reached home. In short, Odysseus is flawed because he has flaws, like pride, that render him imperfect and human.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Odysseus, Homer has created a multi-dimensional Greek hero, and not all of those dimensions are great. In the Iliad, Odysseus is depicted as brave, resourceful, intelligent, and skilled in debate, but there are episodes in which Odysseus exhibits some anti-Homeric-hero traits. For example, at one point in a battle, Nestor, one of the oldest and ablest of Greek warrior-kings, is trapped in his chariot's rubble as Trojan warriors descend upon him. Another Greek warrior-king, Diomedes, attempts to help Nestor, and as Odysseus passes by, Diomedes calls for his help. Odysseus, believing that Nestor cannot be saved, rushes on to the safety of the Greek ships. This is a practical response to the problem, but not a heroic one. In the Odyssey, when he is describing the Sirens to his men, he neglects to tell them that the Sirens pose a fatal threat despite his goal of telling his men that he wants them to go into this danger with "their eyes open," that is, fully understanding the dangers. In other instances, Odysseus's pride puts him and his men at risk. Undeniably, Odysseus is a Homeric hero, whose best traits are worthy of imitation, but he is also arguably the most complex of Homer's warrior-kings, whose flaws and strengths make up the whole man.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial