My Anti-Hero | Teen Ink

My Anti-Hero

August 26, 2008
By Anonymous

Odysseus, son of Laertes, king of Ithaca is not what most would call a hero, he cheats, he steals, and he lies, none of which happen to be ideal qualities. There is no denying that Odysseus has done more than most men, but has he done it with decency, integrity, or honor? Now, is Odysseus a villain? Of course not, but does not being a villain automatically make him a hero? Heroes are supposed to be rational, faithful, and honest, whereas Odysseus is disrespectful, unfaithful, and rash, those traits are not what we look for in our heroes.

Odysseus has respect for no one but himself. He values his life more than that of his crew, a crew that looked to him for guidance. Despite the fact that the crew was willing to die for Odysseus, he calls them “ mutinous fools”, simply because they were hungry and choose to eat some sheep after fighting on the island of Cicones. After his crewmembers died in service to him, he mocks them; even in their death, he shows them no respect. Not only does he show no respect for his willing crew he refuses to pay homage to the gods. Odysseus only calls upon the gods when he desperately needs their help, like when he knew the crew was finally seeing him for the man he really was and disobeyed a direct order not to butcher the Sun god’s cattle. Only then does he say, “ I washed my hands there, and made supplication to the gods who own Olympus,” but it was already too late. Athena helps Odysseus on numerous occasions yet he never thanks her, not even once. Athena is not the only one whom Odysseus shows no respect for, the great god of the sea Poseidon, who should be honored by all sailors is repeatedly insulted by Odysseus’ inability to respect anyone.

Odysseus is unable to remain true to himself or his wife, Penelope. Penelope spent twenty years waiting for Odysseus to return home. She never once gives up hope or falls to the temptation of other men despite the fact that dozens of them were living with her. She clearly states that she loves Odysseus and her heart could be given to no other: “Forgive me, don’t be angry. I could not welcome you with love on sight! I armed myself long ago against the frauds of men. You make my stiff heart know that I am yours.” Penelope never once considered cheating on Odysseus so why couldn’t Odysseus pay her the same courtesy. Don’t married people promise to be faithful, no matter what? Odysseus cheats on his wife more than once; it was not a simple lapse in judgment. He spends five long years on the Island of Calypso and another five with Circe. During this time, did he bother to think of Penelope and how hurt she would feel? Of course he did, he just didn’t care. Odysseus clearly believes that he is above the rules that most people in society chose to obey.

Odysseus is a clear example of how being hotheaded can lead you into a sticky situation. Odysseus tends to make rash decisions and often finds it impossible to control his impulses. He often does things based purely on a feeling. He realizes and readily admits that opinions other than his own make complete sense yet he refuses to acknowledge them and ends up dragging others into danger Odysseus himself says “My men came pressing round me pleading: ‘Why not take these cheeses, and make a run for it? We’ll drive the kids and lambs aboard. We say put out again on good salt water.’ Yet, I refused. I wished to see the cave man, what he had to offer—no pretty sight, it turned out for my friends.” Six of Odysseus’ men are eaten because of his ridiculous folly. Odysseus rashness comes into play again when the ship rolls past the Sirens and Odysseus demands that he listens to their song. His pride clouds his mind and he wants the fame of being the only man to have survived the Sirens’ song, he never once considers what might have happened had he failed. He didn’t consider failing at all because he never stopped to think about his decision, he rashly makes a choice and is forced to suffer the consequences.

Odysseus has his shortcomings and then he has more shortcomings. It would take more than a few good deeds to make Odysseus a worthy role model. If people nowadays went around slaying dozens of men, accidentally killing dozens more and cheating on our spouses would we be hailed as heroes? There is an almost one hundred percent guarantee that we would be either sentenced to a term in prison or put in an asylum. So, what gives Odysseus the right to consider himself a hero, a god among men? Odysseus is an example of a reverse Robin Hood. Robin stole from the rich and gave to the poor; Odysseus steals from society and gives to himself. Odysseus stole more than just material things he took lives. Odysseus isn’t a hero and he never will be.

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This article has 9 comments.

You KNow Who said...
on Sep. 7 2016 at 8:32 pm
So if someone tried to achieve world peace but was willing to slaughter 99% of the world's population he would be a hero?

scribo said...
on Mar. 23 2016 at 11:37 pm
I can see what you mean, and there were some moment when I wanted to smack Odysseus, but I personally do not see him as being so atrocious. If we use this gauge to measure heroism, "heroes" like Jason and Hercules are also disqualified. Emphasis on Hercules/Heracles. Some things I try to understand using the mentality, or what we know of the mentality, of the day. Traits such as the capability to be a deceiver, or that men will always give in to carnal temptation. I don't necessarily agree, but I change my "goggles". I admire Penelope much more than I do Odysseus, considering she has many of the same positive qualities plus the virtues of a loyal woman. Given a modern setting, I would be much more interested in Penelope. Anyways,I have to admit my bias stands mostly in the fact that Odysseus is aggrandized but relatable in my case. This character is a good pointer when it comes to realizing one's own faults and learning to improve. This is a personal point. I do appreciate your points, and I really like your essay. Well organized and explained. It shed light on another angle I was not looking at.

JohnUnger said...
on Mar. 27 2015 at 7:44 am
I think the hero is defined not by the methods he used but by the goal he was willing to achieve. Odysseus is a hero ( for me this is the statement) and I don't really care about his methods because his goal was honorable enough. I really thought a lot regarding his figure in the hero's history because my assignment help was about Homer poems.

MasalaMunch said...
on Dec. 11 2013 at 9:38 pm
First and foremost, your thesis is weak. You appear to be arguing for odysseus to be not thought of as a hero, and imply that he's currently a "role model" that society uses to judge whether they are being "heroic." And that's not true. Odysseus, in the context of the time The Odyssey was written, may have been this sort of item of respect. However, as our society has massively changed since its writing, As a result, Odysseus has gone from being a role model to an example of historic ideas of heroism, and thus the values of that historic society. You attempt to justify this weak thesis with several examples. 1. Cicones - Odysseus in this example actually instructs his men to raid the town and then quickly leave. As a result, his isnults are actually a direct reponse to their disresepct for his authority. 2. Appolo's cattle - Odysseus specifically told his men not to kill the cattle, and once again, while odysseus was consulting with the gods, something you say odysseus does not respect, kill the cattle, once again disrespecting his authority. Penelope - The epic was written in a male dominated, patriarchal society, where woman and where it was acceptable for a man to remain to so what odysseus did. Therefore, odysseus is not "above the rules that most people in society chose to obey," he's actually in line with the rules of his society. At this point, you're agrduing against his society, not the hero himself. Cyclopes - While odysseus make a stupid mistake, this doesn't detract from his heroic qualities. In fact, traits of heroes throughout all literature require a hero to posses some bad qualities to keep the work interesting and so that the hero can show improvement over time. Your essay is an example of poor persuasive writing as it has a flawed thesis and contains flawed examples to 'support' it. Thanks for reading my critique.

on Aug. 10 2012 at 9:34 am
One knows that today's life seems to be not very cheap, but some people need money for various issues and not every person earns enough money. Thus to get some loan and secured loan would be a right solution.

on May. 5 2011 at 1:55 pm
Jean16Bean PLATINUM, Batavia, New York
21 articles 0 photos 26 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Writing is not hard. Just get paper and pencil, sit down and write as it occurs to you. The writing is easy-it's the occurring that's hard."-Stephen Leacock

Bravo! It's true that this man is regarded as a hero in many stories, but, as you said, he is not! You made a great point, and this is great writing.

WriterGirl said...
on May. 4 2011 at 12:17 am
 I don't think the point has been missed at all. Individuals are all that matter and as an individual Odysseus' actions speak for themselves. Its a unique twist on the idea of a hero. Not all heroes ae flawless. Does that mean they cease to be heroes? According to  the author, yes. I don't know. I thought it was interesting to think about at least. How someone who is classically considered to be a hero has various qualities that I wouldnt want to emulate. 

on Mar. 22 2011 at 6:36 pm
deductivewoman SILVER, Manchester, Connecticut
6 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"Life achieves its summit when it does to the uttermost that which it was equipped to do." -Jack London

I agree with TheAnarchist. 

Additionally, Odysseus is regarded as a hero by many scholars. The Odyssey is one of the prime examples of stories which exhibit the Hero's Quest Archetype. If you were to ask many teachers to name one hero, they would name Odysseus. 

Regardless of what you think of his actions, Odysseus is (technically speaking) a hero.

TheAnarchist said...
on Mar. 22 2011 at 2:52 pm
TheAnarchist, Cincinnati, Ohio
0 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Albert Einstein

I must completely disagree with you.  He is one of the greatest heroes of all time, he mediated the disputes of the Iliad and he invented the Trojan Horse.  The last part in which you describe stealing from society you miss the point.  How can a man steal from a collective body of indivuals.  Individuals are all that matter and Odysseus was a great one.