The Odyssey is an epic poem, and epic poems demonstrate certain literary conventions. They relate the deeds of an epic hero--a courageous man, physically strong, who pits himself against dangerous enemies to accomplish a worthy goal, one that will benefit others. Also, the epic hero demonstrates the values of his...
The Odyssey is an epic poem, and epic poems demonstrate certain literary conventions. They relate the deeds of an epic hero--a courageous man, physically strong, who pits himself against dangerous enemies to accomplish a worthy goal, one that will benefit others. Also, the epic hero demonstrates the values of his culture. Through his actions, he represents what his people admire in human behavior and what they aspire to be.
An epic poem centers around a journey, or a quest, that the hero undertakes against seemingly impossible odds. The epic hero is not superhuman and does not possess supernatural powers. He is not a man without fear; he is heroic because he puts his fears aside and acts with courage, strength, intelligence, and perseverance to complete his journey and achieve that which is good.
Odysseus' journey is essential in the overall work because it defines The Odyssey as an epic poem. In his quest to return home to Ithaca, Odysseus' travels and many dangerous experiences become an epic journey in which he functions as the epic hero.
In writing The Iliad and The Odyssey, Homer enhanced and enriched the conventions of the traditional epic poem by developing his epic heroes in terms of their individuality. They are not epic hero stereotypes. His characters are presented as complex human beings with distinct personalities. This is true of Odysseus as he is presented in The Odyssey. While he struggles to bring his ship and his men home from the Trojan War, Odysseus experiences an emotional journey, as well--feeling at various times all the emotions one would expect a man in his position to feel: anger, pain, determination, despair, and always, hope. His emotional journey ends when he finally is reunited with his wife and then his aged father. Homer's depiction of Odysseus in these two tender scenes shows a depth in Odysseus' character that surpasses that of the conventional epic hero.
Odysseus' particular journey, in all respects, makes The Odyssey a poem that addresses the conventions of the epic poem genre, while creating an epic hero who is an unforgettable human being.