How do Odysseus' mistakes show that he is relatable?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It can be difficult for 21st-century readers to connect with stories such as The Odyssey because the world and the heroes represented there often seem to possess more differences than similarities to our own.  For a hero like Odysseus, we know that his heroic qualities are legendary: he conceived the idea of the Trojan Horse, a strategic move that helped win the Trojan War. He is also the only person to have heard sirens sing and live to tell about it, and so on.  

However, his flaws and errors help us to feel somewhat more connected to him than his impressive feats, likely because most of us will never be called on to design a war strategy and none of us will come in contact with mythical creatures that do not exist.  For example, when Odysseus proudly shares his real name with the Cyclops, Polyphemus, because he wants the monster to know and be able to tell others who bested him, Odysseus displays his biggest flaw, his pride.  And this mistake, telling the Cyclops his real name, is a big one, and it gets him into a great deal of trouble with the monster's father, Poseidon, who then makes Odysseus's journey home that much harder.  A mistake like this, made out of pride, is certainly relatable to modern readers.  Most people have wanted to brag about something they've accomplished at some point in their lives, and even though we know we probably ought to keep our mouths shut, we just can't help ourselves sometimes.  Therefore, Odysseus's flaws seem to make him a lot more human than his accomplishments, and thus the mistakes he makes help us to relate to him.