Odysseus Is Not a Hero: Critical Essay

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Many people ponder the idea of being a hero, and what qualities or characteristics make one a hero. The borders between being a hero and a normal person can be blurred, and Odysseus from ‘The Odyssey’ is a great example. Some may consider Odysseus a hero, and some may not. To me, Odysseus is not a hero because of his arrogance, his selfishness, and the fact that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Firstly, Odysseus' arrogance cannot make him a true hero. Take the Sirens’ song for example. The author states, “Then every ear I barred against the strain, and from every access of frenzy locked the brian… I give the sign and struggle to be free; swift row my mates, and shoot along the sea” (Homer, 8, 23-48). Odysseus and his men travel to the land of the Sirens, who sing a beautiful yet horrid song that makes them want to stay on the island and forget everything about their home. Heroically, Odysseus gives his crew guidance by telling them to put wax in their ears, although he refuses to put wax on his own. The reader can infer that Odysseus is selfish because he thinks that he is superior to his men, and does not need the same protection and security they need from the Sirens. In the long run, this causes more trouble for his men, causing them to chain Odysseus to the mast of the ship. This is seen again in Book 10. Homer writes: “As they talked like this, my companions’ envious thoughts prevailed. They untied the bag. All the winds rushed out. Then storms winds seized them, swept them out to sea, in tears, away from their native land” (Homer, 10, 62-27). Odysseus was given a bag of winds from Aeolus and was told not to open the bag. Odysseus is arrogant once again in the fact that he chooses not to tell his crew members what is inside the bag. This provokes the men to open the bag in the middle of the night. The crew opens the bag, and the winds shift the men off their course, and away from their native land. This is important because it shows that Odysseus is arrogant. Choosing to not tell his men the contents of the bag gave him a false sense of superiority. The men opened the bag, curious about its contents. If Odysseus was honest with his men and told them the contents of the bag, they all could have made it home years sooner, but he let his arrogance get the best of him.

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Odysseus cannot be considered a true hero because he is selfish. For example, the author states: “Take these cheeses, get them stowed, come back, throw open all the pens, and make a run for it? …How to sound that was! Yet refused. I wished to see the caveman, what he had to offer no pretty sight, it turned out, for my friends” (Homer, 9, 126-130). Odysseus took his men to the Cyclops' cave and began to eat the cheese that was left out for them. Some of Odysseus' men suggest taking the safe way out and leaving after eating the cheese, but Odysseus refuses. Odysseus stays to see what the Cyclops has for him, and the Cyclops eats six of his crew members. This is important because it shows that Odysseus is selfish. His lack of consideration for his men's wishes and opinions brings death upon them. This slight in-considerateness of the crew predicts the future death of all of the crew. If it were not for Odysseus’ self-absorption, his whole crew would have returned to Ithaca victorious. Odysseus is also selfish because he is not loyal to Penelope. The author writes: “‘For seven years’, said Odysseus, ‘I was a guest of Calypso. She is a powerful goddess and was lonely so she took me to her bed’” (Homer, 5, 50-53). This means that Odysseus spent 7 years on Calypso’s island. Calypso allegedly kept Odysseus on her island as a sex slave, meaning that Odysseus' only purpose on the island was to bring pleasure to Calypso. This means that Odysseus was loyal and inconsiderate to Penelope, thus making him selfish. One cannot simply give their body to someone for seven years. This would be equivalent to passing a math test, but stating that you did not use your brain.

And finally, Odysseus cannot be considered a true hero because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. The author states: “He aim and shot, and every shot brought down, one of his huddling enemies” (Homer, 22, 119-120). This means that Odysseus willingly killed 100 unarmed suitors, for no apparent reason. First, Odysseus unarms the suitors and kills them one by one with his bow and arrow. Even though Odysseus comes home as a victorious hero of Ithaca, it does not justify his actions. His violent actions were unnecessary, and show his ruthlessness and inconsiderate for life. Is there an explanation for this? Post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD may be to blame. According to ADDA.org, risk factors for PTSD include exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation. Odysseus is still responsible for the loss of 100 men, but PTSD may be to blame. PTSD is a disorder that usually happens after a traumatic event, like seeing 6 men eaten by a one-eyed monster or traveling to a whole new world. This provides an insight into Odysseus' life in the future. For example, Odysseus may have to be monitored in the event of another violent outbreak.

Summing up, Odysseus is not a hero mainly because of his arrogance, his selfishness, and the fact that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. To be a hero, Odysseus must learn how to be humble, and selfless, and also learn to cope with his PTSD. Odysseus is not the only one without flaws, the rest of humanity also is flawed, and none of us our perfect heroes. The only thing that can better we as humans is being the best that we can be, and giving it all in everything we do.

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