Character Growth in The Odyssey
After devising the trick of using the wooden horse to win the Trojan War, Ulysses (Odysseus) believes he is as good as the gods. Who needs them? Clearly, he suffers from hubris.
Before landing on Calypso’s island, Ulysses (Odysseus) exhibits the behaviors of an alazon, one who acts better than he really is — and he’s destined not only for punishment from the gods, but he brings about his own suffering and the deaths of all his crew. As one who champions the “me” culture, Ulysses (Odysseus) fails at the “we” community-building. It takes him 20 years of sailing and suffering in what should have been a few weeks.
After all of his men die, and he suffers alone on Calypso’s island for many years, Ulysses (Odysseus) contemplates the mistakes he’s made. Near the end of The Odyssey, he allows Minerva (Athena) to transform him into a beggar before returning to Ithaca. A younger Odysseus would never have permitted himself to be transformed into an old, weak beggar. As such, back home in Ithaca, he is immediately abused by suitors. Yet, he uses lessons learned to exercise syphrosine (restraint): he perseveres and plans his revenge.
ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS: In what major ways has the older Odysseus changed and learned from the mistakes he made as a younger man? Citing many episodes and using many quotes from Ulysses (Odysseus), Homer’s narration, the advice of both immortals and mortals, write an analysis of how Ulysses (Odysseus) has changed from an alazon, one who acts better than he really is, into an eiron, one who is better than he claims or appears to be. How and why does he grow and change? What has he learned in the process? What advice might he give Telemachus as he grows into the future king?
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