A hero is a fictional character who faces hardship with immense courage, ingenuity, and power, often at the detriment of their own personal well-being for the sake of the people they serve or lead. As a result, a hero is bound to be praised for his brilliant and fine deeds. He could be part celestial, or he could be covered by gods or a deity. Odysseus suits the bill well.
After the Trojan War, the nymph Calypso imprisons him on Ogygia Island, far from his homeland of Ithaka, for approximately twenty years. He has to endure ten eventful years back home to reassert his place as the rightful king of Ithaka. In the meantime, Telemachus, his son, and Prince is greatly disturbed by the fact that a rowdy mob of suitors has overrun his father’s palace trying to woo Penelope, Odysseus’ wife. He desperately seeks to throw them out but lacks the guts and experience. One of the suitors, Antonius, an antagonist of a sort, plots to assassinate Telemachus so as to eliminate the only opposition in their way to marrying Penelope. Odysseus only succeeds to trace his way home after Hermes, an Olympian god, and son of Zeus, petitions for his freedom from the clutches of Calypso. Much of this happens in prior books.
One main factor that motivates Odysseus’ actions is his pure desire to reclaim his kingship and family headship. When he gets home disguised, he is not recognized by anybody at first. Penelope had remained faithful to Odysseus, despite his absence and the three long years of her seducing by the suitors. Her loyalty to her absent husband is the foundation of the suitors’ fall. She devices her final scheme to throw them out with chagrin. She demands that whoever can string his long gone husband’s rigid bow and shoot an arrow through twelve ax shafts may have her hand in marriage. Odysseus sees a chance to seize his place back and avenge against the suitors. He is forced to threaten a house help who had recognized him to silence, lest he loses the chance.
None of the suitors is able to string the bow but when all of them have given up, Odysseus steps forward, bends the bow, shoots the arrow and wins the contest. Having done so, he proceeds to kill all the suitors, beginning with Antonius. The ghost to one of the suitors, Amphimedon, reports to ghosts of Agamemnon and Achilles that Odysseus “…told his wife to set the great bow and the gleaming iron axes…to test our skill and bring our slaughter on…”(Fagles, Robert). Odysseus then forces the serving women, who prostituted with the suitors to clean up the mess of corpses before hanging them too.
Odysseus finally wins back his wife’s trust by demonstrating his knowledge of their bed through protest that it cannot be moved on Penelope’s orders because he made it himself and that one of its legs is a living olive tree. Odysseus then comes to his father Laertes’ place. He disguises as a traveler from a distant land but has knowledge of Odysseus. In so doing, he tries to test his father but breaks down and reveal his identity when old Laertes cries after Odysseus is mentioned. Parents of the suitors seek to avenge their sons but Athena appeals to his father Zeus, thus; “Father,..will you prolong the pain…the cruel fighting here or hand down pacts of peace between both sides?” (Fagles, Robert). With this, peace is restored, but not before Laertes kills Eupithes.
His versatility and brilliance, in the end, are the endearing virtues that can easily be picked. He emerges heroic in the end.
Fagles, Robert. The Odyssey: Translation Robert Fagles. London, Penguin Classic, 1997,