In The Odyssey, Odysseus had to face many challenges during his travels; a few
of these difficulties were a cannibalistic Cyclops, huge whirlpools, determined
suitors, along with many hardships. Odysseus fought constantly to return to his
homeland of Ithaca, but to accomplish this Odysseus had to be clever,
resourceful, and have great leadership qualities. Odysseus proved throughout the
story that he was very clever. When he was faced with having to get out of
Polyphemus’s cave, Odysseus first told the Cyclops, “My name is Nohbdy: mother,
father, and friends, / everyone calls me Nohbdy”. (pg. 452, 341-342) Odysseus
told him this because he knew if the other Cyclopes would come and ask who was
with him, they would think that “Nohbdy” was there. In another episode,
Odysseus outsmarted the Sirens; he wanted to listen to their sweet song, but he
knew he would try to jump overboard. It was then he got the notion to tell his
crew, “you are to tie me up, tight as a splint, / erect along the mast,
lashed to the mast, / and if I shout and beg to be untied, / take more turns of
rope to muffle me.” (pg. 459, 536-539) This and telling the crew members to put
wax in their ears ensured that Odysseus, alone, could listen to the Sirens’ song
and not die. When Odysseus had to figure out how he could kill the Suitors who
were staying in his house, he had Athena disguise him as an old beggar and then
told Telemachus, his son, to hide all of the Suitors’ weapons and armor. If
they asked Telemachus what he was doing, he was to tell them he was storing the
weapons so that none of the suitors would kill each other if they got into a
fight. Many times throughout the story, Odysseus had to be resourceful enough to
accomplish a task by using surrounding things, whatever was at hand. When he
was drifting back towards Charybdis, Odysseus grabbed onto a nearby fig tree
and held on until a piece of driftwood shot out of the whirlpool; then he
grabbed a hold of the driftwood and soared to safety. In order to escape from
the Cyclops’s cave, Odysseus wanted to blind the Cyclops. To do this, he carved
a large stave which he planned to use against the Cyclops and poke his eye out.

But in order to keep this stave a secret from Polyphemus, he had to hide it in a
place where Polyphemus would not suspect. It is here he hid it, “under / one
of the dung piles in profusion there.” (pg. 451, 303-304) To make this stave,
Odysseus first had to find a tree which he could cut down, “an olive tree,
felled green and left to season” (pg. 451, 293) Odysseus also had to find a
way to prevent the suitor from knowing that he was back, so he prayed to Athena
to disguise him as a beggar. Odysseus had to be a good leader in order to make
tough decisions about what he and his crew should do. When passing through the
strait between Scylla and Charybdis, Odysseus chose to lose six men to Scylla
instead of risking losing the entire ship to Charybdis. Upon the Island of the
Lotus Eaters, Odysseus had to get the men who had eaten the Lotus off the island.

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“I drove them, all three wailing, to the ships, / tied them under their rowing
benches,” (pg. 445, 97-98) On the island of the sun god, Helios, Odysseus
warned his men not to kill the cattle which belonged to the god; but,
unfortunately, his men disobeyed him and slaughtered the cattle, which they
feasted upon. Zeus later punished his men with death. Trapped inside of
Polyphemus’ cave, Odysseus knew he had to be a good leader if he was to get
himself and his men out of the cave. Originally he was going to kill Polyphemus
when he ate two of Odysseus’s men; but when Odysseus was about to stab him, he
realized that he should not kill him, because “I had touched the spot / when
sudden fear stayed me: if I killed him / we perished there as well, for we could
never / move his ponderous doorway slab aside.” (pg. 450-451, 273-276) During
his adventure Odysseus proved that he was smart, and able to deal with adversity
skillfully. He proved an able leader despite all the troubles that he
encountered on his adventure. In the end, Odysseus proved he could surmount
the challenges which might have prevented him from getting home.

Category: English