What does Homer think about Odysseus ?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This becomes one of the most basic and powerful questions in Homeric scholarship.  I am not sure a clear and definitive answer can be given.  As with most elements in Homer, the answer is complex.  On one hand, The Odyssey gives a great view into the human nature of Odysseus.  He is shown in far more detail than in the Iliad.  Being the protagonist, Homer constructs his main character with strength, guile, wit, and a keeping an eye to the moral structure of the world in terms of recognizing the need to return home and assume his rightful place in the world.  Certainly, Homer possesses some level of love for Odysseus in that he writes his main character being reunited, fighting through evil, and restoring the order of Ithaca and, to a sense, in being in the world.  Homer does not hesitate showing another side to Odysseus in terms of featuring the cruelty in terms of what Odysseus has to do in order to return home.  He kills and lies, destroys and manipulates, in order to achieve an overall moral goal of returning home.  In this, Homer begs the question of how we, as humans, define ethical and moral conduct.  To phrase this another way, can a moral end be achieved through acts of immorality?  Can overall moral people still retain their morality by acting in ways that are immoral?  Homer leaves this question to the reader in presenting Odysseus in his totality, or in a totalizing manner where noble and base can be seen in his character.  I don't think that this removes the affinity that Homer has for his character and the fact that he thinks about him in an elevated manner.  Yet, it shows the willingness to be human that is in both Homer and his love for his protagonist.

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