What does Odysseus think of the way the cyclops Polyphemus lives in The Odyssey?

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When Odysseus and his men first arrive at Polyphemus's cave in book 9, the cyclops is out. The cave initially seems reasonable enough. Cheeses sit drying on "flat racks," and brimming buckets of whey stand on the floor. Lambs and sheep are neatly divided by age. It seems a place...

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When Odysseus and his men first arrive at Polyphemus's cave in book 9, the cyclops is out. The cave initially seems reasonable enough. Cheeses sit drying on "flat racks," and brimming buckets of whey stand on the floor. Lambs and sheep are neatly divided by age. It seems a place of bounty, and Odysseus's men simply want to take some cheese and leave, but Odysseus refuses.

When Polyphemus, strong and gigantic, returns, the mood changes. After Odysseus asks for hospitality in the name of the gods, Polyphemus reveals himself to be a barbarian in his disrespect of the deities, saying he won't "blink at" Zeus and that he has gotten more by "force" than from worshipping the gods. He then fully shows that he is, in Odysseus's words, a "ruthless brute" by taking two of Odysseus's men and "rapping them on the ground" until their "brains gush . . . out." Polyphemus then rips the corpses from limb to limb and devours them. Odysseus describes his response to him at this juncture as "paralyzed" and "appalled."

Odysseus is horrified at the animalistic, savage, and ruthless behavior of his host. He wants to stab him to death, but he waits, knowing only Polyphemus has the strength to move the "slab" blocking the door.

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Odysseus describes the Cyclops as a "horrid creature, not like a human being at all," with a "loud voice and monstrous form." Polyphemus lives in a dirty cave, where he tends to his goats and sheep, a lifestyle that Odysseus and his warriors view as barbaric. Odysseus, a king of the civilized Mycenaeans, is disdainful of the lawless lifestyle of the Cyclops, which is symbolized by his inhospitability. Polyphemus's refusal to give Odysseus a gift, and his subsequent ill-treatment of the men is would have been a serious affront in ancient Mediterranean society.

Of course, he and his men are understandably horrified when he kills and eats two of their comrades. Further, he is struck by the fact that Polyphemus declares his total lack of respect for the gods. What is more, Odysseus (with good reason) sees Polyphemus as simple-minded. He is amused by the ease with which he is able to outwit the stupid beast, who he views as a murderous savage. In the context of the story, the encounter with the Cyclops is an example of how Odysseus's wits overcome brute force and brawn. On the other hand, his insistence on revealing his identity to the blinded Polyphemus is a famous act of hubris that lands him in trouble when the Cyclops prays to his father, Poseidon, to make trouble for Odysseus on his way home. Ultimately, however, it is the lack of civilization and hospitality on the part of the Cyclops that first angers Odysseus.

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