Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer
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In The Odyssey, Odysseus considers stabbing the Cyclops. Why does he change his mind?

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Killing Polyphemus would've been very hard indeed. The huge, one-eyed giant would present a difficult target for anyone, even brave, skilled warriors like Odysseus and his crew. There was also no guarantee that stabbing the Cyclops in the liver would've killed him; it might have just made him incredibly angry, with devastating consequences for Odysseus and his men.

Besides, the men didn't have their weapons with them; all they had was a sharpened stake. That might well have severely injured Polyphemus, but it wouldn't necessarily have been enough to kill him. In any case, even if was, the men trapped inside the cave would still have needed to find a way to remove the huge boulder blocking the entrance. Only Polyphemus had the physical strength to do that. So, Odysseus comes up with a much better idea than simply killing the Cyclops.

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Odysseus changes his mind about stabbing Polyphemus in the liver because, if he kills the Cyclops, there will be no one to move the stone door from the mouth of the cave, and he and his men will die inside.  The stone is too large for even all of the men, working together, to move, and the Cyclops keeps decreasing their number by eating two of them for every meal.  

Therefore, Odysseus must come up with an alternative plan to escape the Cyclops, some way in which they can wound him and render him incapable of catching them but still leave him healthy enough to move the stone door so that they actually have a way out. This is why he decides to blind Polyphemus.  Losing his sight will make it more difficult for him to catch them, but he will still need (and be able) to move the stone away to let his animals out to pasture (or to get help for himself).  

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