Homers characters are real human beings with all the strengths andweaknesses. They live, they breathe, they love, they hate. They are subjectto fear and they tend, on occasion, to rise to heroic greatness. His mostexplored stories The Illiad and The Odyssey both have characters that exertthese characteristics. Although the stories are different, both heroesshare similar backgrounds, plights, and triumphs.
The heroes of the novels, thanks to the literary prowess of Homer,share similar experiences in their backgrounds. Achilles, the hero of theIlliad, was early deserted by his mother Thetis and sent by his fatherPeleus to Mount Pelion to be raised by Cheiron the Centaur. There he wastaught the arts of manhood and when only six years old he killed his firstboar. Odysseus has a similar experience in book XIX of the Odyssey duringhis boar hunt on Mt. Parnassus. There are similar stories as wellconcerning the recruitment of Odysseus and Achilles for service at Troy.Both had been forewarned that the expedition to Troy would be dangerous andboth were haled off to Troy only through the trickery of the recruitingofficers.
The relationships that the two heroes have also contribute totheir similarities. Both heroes seem to be isolated-Achilles certainly morethan Odysseus, who appears, characteristically, with wife, son, father, andpeople in the final vision of the poem. Yet for all Achilles’inaccessibility, the intensity of his friendship for Patroclus surpassesOdysseus’ more conventional regard for his men or attachment to his familyand homeland.Hardships seem to be the things that define a man’s life. BothOdysseus and Achilles go to extraordinary lengths to achieve their goals.Odysseus who journeys, who has a number of adventures with adversaries bothterrible and beautiful, who visits the land of the dead, and who then comesto a land where he wins a bridal contest, marries the beautiful woman whois the prize and lives on as king of the country. As for Achilles, he mustovercome the driving force that is the Achaean army and protect his wifeHelen from the Trojans.
Odysseus’ plight is much more consuming than thatof Achilles. Odysseus is forced to traverse the seas for twenty yearsbefore returning whereas Achilles’ plight all occurs near the walls of thecity of Troy. We see both characters however changing as their plightthickens. Odysseus comes to the realization in book XIthat all his traditional gifts are useless, making him appear seeminglysomewhat less commanding when he stands alone and uncertain amidst theheroic departed.
Much like Odysseus’ downtrodden thoughts, Achilles hearsfrom the delegates what consequences his decision has entailed for theAchaean army. He is reminded of his family, of the wider contexts of hisheroism, and of the mythic precedents for his situation. The war also hasmany adverse affects on the heroes, just as war affects everyone. Achillesis out of sight through much of the battle, sulking in his tent asPatroclus leads the Achaeans against the Trojans in an attack that isspurred by desperation. This scene, along with the journey of Odysseus fromEumaeus’ hut to the royal palace, sets the stage for two intensely dramaticscenes, Achilles’ return to the battle to avenge Patroclus, and Odysseus’revelation before the Suitors.
This represents the return of the hero inboth stories, setting the stage for a climactic return.Every Greek epic written in it’s time ended in triumph. Man’s desireto appear glorified when all is said and done shows through even in Homer’sword. What a story of a hero be without a dramatic climax. Achillesreturns to battle after he sees Patroclus has been slain by Hector.Achilles becomes overcome by rage and is able to march into battle, slayingmany Trojans on his way to Hector. In an epic struggle, fit for the climaxof this war story, Achilles kills Hector remorselessly and thus avengingthe death of his friend.
Throughout history man has had to overcomeadversity. When faced with the death of a loved one, men can triumph overmountains. Achilles’ triumph speaks highly of his character.
He is a manof action; letting his emotions guide those actions. Odysseus is also a manof action. Upon his return to the palace of the Suitors, Odysseusrecaptures the heart of his beloved Penelope. He never gave up even whiletraveling the rivers of hell.
The main similarity between the two heroesis their determination and their abilities to overcome the challenges thatface them. A man is based upon what he has in his life.Both Achillesand Odysseus had friends, family, and glory. In the end the great heroalways triumphs.Great characters make great stories. Obviously you wouldn’t have anepic battle without an epic hero. Both Achilles and Odysseus are epicheroes from Homer’s world.
The stories of their background, plights andtriumphs, along with many other stories, helped inspire the arts of acivilization. The similarities of these characters, their background,plights, and triumphs, added together made for a great story of love andadventure.Bibliography-Corcoran, James. LITERATURE –WORLD MASTERPIECES. New Jersey: PrenticeHall, 1995.Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey. 3 June 2004.
Homer, The Odyssey. Northeastern University. 1 June 2004.Jorn Barger.
Homer’s Odyssey resources on the Web. Feb. 2002. Robot Wisdom.
3 June 2004 .Robin Mitchell-Boyask. Study Guide for Homer’s Odyssey.
31 Jan. 2002.TempleUniversity.
1 June 2004 .Scott Thomason. Homer’s Odyssey: A Guide to Understanding the Voyage ofOdysseus Through a Study of Greek Mythology. 2 Feb. 1999.
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