From the very first few pages of the Iliad, it is clear and apparent that Odysseus is the prototypical Greek hero. As such, the following discussionwill be concentric upon the weaknesses and strengths that help to define Odysseus; in the hopes that the reader can gain a more informed and valuable interpretation of the many shades of meaning that Homer’s famous poem denotes.
This is of course evidenced with regards to the way in which it was Odysseus idea to devise the Trojan horse. Likewise, it was his scheming that was able to drive away and kill Penelope’s suitors, and his cunning that was able to defeat Polyphemus. However, rather than it being understood that Odysseus was somehow selfish and narcissistic in his character, it must be understood that he entailed a great deal of concern for his fellow man. Moreover, as was such a common theme within Greek mythology and character representation, Odysseus represents the intellectual warrior, equally proficient in statesmanship, dialogue, philosophy, and the art of warfare and love (McCaughrean 26). Without the daring and courageous exploits that Odysseus represents, the definitive and seminal moments of the Iliad would have likely fallen rather dry. By much the same token, his heroism and choice of actions necessarily create many of the issues that culminate in his tragic flaws. Notwithstanding these flaws, Homer is still able to represent Odysseus in such a way that the reader clearly identifies with his weakness and innate humanity; regardless of the super-human acts of heroism that he engages and the clever acts of strategy or genius that he employs.
Yet a further distinction can be made with regards to the fact that almost all of Odysseus’ hardships were his own doing; brought on by pride, hubris, or miscalculation of relationships and trust. While he is brave, clever, and fully able to exhibit physical and mental strength, he nonetheless must utilize each of these as a function of extracting himself from the hardships he so often places himself in.
Further, even though Odysseus represents certain elements/definitions of heroism, he represents this heroism as part of a collective tradition; idealizing those who have gone before him and performed deeds, that Odysseus sees as even more heroic than those which he is performing. Whereas Odysseus is a flawed hero that is overly curious, prideful, unfaithful to his wife, he has tragic faults and flaws. Such a representation is easily able to present the reader with a very clear level of distinction regarding the differential that exists between Odysseus and other “heroes” of Greek or Roman tragedy.
It is without question that Odysseus was a flawed character; however, his will to succeed and his ingenuity were oftentimes what caused him to triumph and at the same time what caused him to suffer from his own arrogance/defiance. Ultimately, the indomitable human spirit is represented in the character of Odysseus; not only as a model of what human folly and virtue represent, but as a more dynamic representation of the fact that both of these elements can exist simultaneously in a single individual.
McCaughrean, Geraldine. Odysseus. Chicago, Ill: Cricket Books, 2004. Print.