Duality in The Odyssey

Essay by thekingandqueenHigh School, 11th gradeA+, December 2008

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Odysseus exhibits a certain duality in his nature that defines his persona and controls his actions. In Book Nine of The Odyssey, both oppositional sides of Odysseus are poignantly illustrated: the tactful, crafty leader who uses reason, and the rash warrior in search of home and glory who acts impulsively. From the opening scene, Odysseus uses his cunning and charm to win the respect and honor of the Phaeacians and their king, Alcinous. This is shown when he states, “What a fine thing this is, to listen to such a bard/as we have here—the man sings like a god./The crown of life, I’d say…" Clearly, Odysseus is trying to flatter and win the favor of his hosts in order to secure their help for passage to his beloved Ithaca. In order to impress them further, Odysseus declares that he is "known to the world/for every kind of craft—my fame has reached the skies" (21-22).

Odysseus creates an image of being an incredibly strong leader. However, for a man of great ingenuity, Odysseus makes several imprudent mistakes.

Among the gravest of his faults is acting without caution. Upon sighting the land of the Cyclops, Odysseus feels a sense of foreboding in the upcoming events. He states that he knew that he’d "soon come up against/some giant clad in power like armor-plate—/a savage deaf to justice, blind to law" (238-240). Although he gets this feeling, he acts without reason. However, he irrationally leads his men into the cave of the Cyclops anyway. As a result, Odysseus led some of his men to a horrendous death. Long after the Cyclops is utterly defeated, Odysseus taunts Polyphemus. Odysseus allows his haughtiness to surpass his wisdom and ridicules the blinded giant; thereby, jeopardizing the lives of his entire crew when the Cyclops hurls a...