What are some characteristics of Odysseus?

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Odysseus is a fairly complex character whose characteristics are revealed in his actions throughout the decade it takes him to return to his island kingdom after his service in the Trojan War.

The characteristic that provokes Poseidon to make Odysseus's life complicated on his voyage home is his hubris, or excessive pride. At the end of the Trojan War, Odysseus does not acknowledge the gods' role in the war to the extent that they demand, thus angering them—Poseidon in particular. Odysseus continues to provoke the god of the sea by blinding his son, the cyclops Polyphemus. So, another characteristic of Odysseus is that he is rather heedless.

The manner in which Odysseus is able to outsmart Polyphemus displays both his courage and shrewdness. Through cunning wordplay and bravery, he maneuvers the cyclops into a vulnerable position and blinds him, creating an opportunity for most of his crew and himself to escape the cave.

Odysseus has his soft side, as well. He genuinely misses his wife, Penelope, and his son, Telemachus, in the twenty years he spends away from Ithaca. He is upset and jealous when he comes home to find suitors vying for his wife's hand, and he is proud of his son, who has grown to manhood.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two of Odysseus's most significant flaws are his arrogance and pride.  In fact, these qualities are responsible for a great many of the struggles he has in reaching his home.  When he and his men stop at the island of the cyclops on their way from Troy to Ithaca, Odysseus blinds Polyphemus in order to escape the monster's cave alive.  Granted, his plan was really brave and clever, and he even told the monster that his name was "Nobody" so that when other Cyclopes came to check on him, Polyphemus would tell them that "Nobody [was] hurting [him]"!  Brilliant!  Less brilliant, however, is telling the Cyclops his real name as his ship leaves the island.  Odysseus is too proud, and he wants the monster to know who blinded and outwitted him.  He wants to shame the monster for not following Zeus's laws, claiming that Zeus is on his side.  As a result, Polyphemus is able to pray to his father, Poseidon, to avenge him by making Odysseus's trip home perilous for him and tragic for all of his men.

leagye eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to understand Odysseus' characteristics, it is important to understand that he is an Epic Hero; as such, he displays characteristics that are both heroic as well as human. For example, he displays the characteristics of a classic Epic Hero when he is challenged with the task of returning home to Ithaca and successfully overcomes the odds. For example, he outwits Polyphemus the Cyclops; he battles Charybdis and Scylla; finally, he disguises himself as a beggar and wins his family back from the intruders in his own home. On the other hand, he displays human characteristics as well: he is overly curious, which gets him into trouble with the cyclops, Lotus Eaters, etc. He is a man, and has a difficult time resisting the temptations of the beautiful Circe and Calypso. So, his characteristics fit into two categories: epic hero and human.

khenson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Odysseus is arrogant, cunning, shrewd, charismatic, overconfident, and ingenious.

He is an amazing Greek hero worthy of study.

Yojana_Thapa | Student

Odysseus is loyal, cunning and a great hero. He is definitely brave and sometime arrogance take over him. He is wise.

jeremydodson | Student

Odysseus is brave, loyal, smart, arrogant at times, wise, strong, shrewd, cunning, majestic, and an epic hero.

coolstrike4 | Student

Odysseus is extremely cunning, wise, and strong. However He is also sentimental, when he finally sees Telemachus. A worthy character in the Odyssey.

ejack85 | Student
Odysseus is brave, smart, loyal, and an epic hero.
russo66 | Student

Odysseus is definantly hubristic and an epic hero!

tanya2405 | Student

What if you were to describe Ulysses internal and external characteristics?

Read the study guide:
The Odyssey

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