The Morality and Politics of Odysseus

Essay by acnevilleHigh School, 10th gradeA+, November 2014

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The Morality and Politics of Odysseus

The Greek hero is ubiquitous throughout mythology. Strong, brave, and just, they displayed traits that mortals could only hope to attain. Perhaps the most famous hero was Odysseus, the center of Homer's "The Odyssey". Throughout the book, he is touted as a war hero who commits tremendous acts. However, the reader must wonder if the motives behind these acts are moral or political. Often times, they are rooted in deception, arrogance, lust, and cruelty. In analyzing "The Odyssey", it is apparent that politics take precedence over morality in the eyes of Odysseus.

In several scenarios, Odysseus relies on deception and dishonesty to further his cause. When faced with the challenge of Skylla and Charybdis, he proceeds home, knowing that it will cause the death of six men. In order to assure that his plan went through regardless of the risks, Odysseus never tells the crew of the dangers.

He knew that if he did tell them, "they would have dropped their oars again, in panic, to roll for cover under the decking" (217). This reveals multiple elements of Odysseus' character. It shows that he is willing to be dishonest with those who trust him in order to achieve his own individual goals. In contrast, a hero should be upright, truthful, and trustworthy.

While some would argue that Odysseus was heroic both in act and character, it is quite clear that he was arrogant: a purely political and immoral trait. His arrogance was responsible for the tumultuous journey that befell him and his men. A prime example of his arrogance and its repercussions can be seen in his encounters with Polyphemos. When he invades Polyphemos' cave, he expects to be treated as a guest. He says that they would "entreat (him), great Sir, have a...