What is the best way to describe Odysseus when he is facing some of his greatest challenges? What primary qualities of character does Odysseus demonstrate throughout the epic?
In Odysseus' moments of greatest challenges, he can best be described as quick-witted, resolute, and focused.
Throughout the epic, the reader is reminded time and time again that Odysseus longs for and treasures those who are loyal to him. Although his relationship with Calypso and his dalliance with Circe slow Odysseus down from getting back to Ithaca, the reader is frequently reminded that he wants to return to his home and family more than he wants immortality granted to him.
When Odysseus speaks with his mother in Hades, he is touched and very sad to find out that his mother died of a broken heart caused by his absence. When he returns to Ithaca and sees how his faithful hunting dog has wasted away while waiting for Odysseus' return, once again Odysseus feels honored yet guilty that his dog has missed him so. In Odysseus' dealings with his loyal swineherd and his other (mostly disloyal) servants, he makes it clear that he plans to reward loyalty and punish treachery. Odysseus shares tender moments with his father and with Telemachus--but not until he knows he can trust them. Most of all, Odysseus makes sure that he can trust Penelope and verifies that she was faithful to him during his 20-year absence.