Larger-Than-Life Heroes: Achilles and Odysseus What are the main characteristics of a larger-than-life epic hero? An epic hero is a brave and powerful warrior who is motivated to fight both internal and external conflicts to achieve glory and ranks above a normal man. In Homer’s epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey, Achilles and Odysseus are the well-known heroes. Achilles fights Hektor outside the walls of Troy because Hektor killed his best friend, Patroclus. After fighting in the Trojan War, Odysseus takes on a journey to return back to Ithaca to see his wife, Penelope, and his son, Telemachus.
Through his use of tone, figurative language, mood, and imagery, Homer’s epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey show how Achilles and Odysseus, despite their struggles with themselves and the world, are true heroes because of their motivation for glory and revenge. Achilles and Odysseus are struggling to be viewed as tenacious warriors because of an empty place in their hearts. For instance, Agamemnon takes Achilles’ prize, Briseis, and exclaims “See how the lord of the great plains, Agamemnon, humiliated me! He has my prize, by his own whim, for himself” (Iliad. . 168-169). Achilles feels humiliated because Agamemnon took his prize, Briseis, away from him in order to return Chryseis. He still does not want to go to war after Agamemnon returns her. Achilles’ heart is aching and the thought of never seeing his prize again worries him. Homer uses mood to make the reader feel pity for Achilles. Even though Achilles treats Briseis as a prize, it is depressing that he does not have her in his arms. Achilles and Briseis fell in love with each other and were separated such as in a more modern movie called The Swan Princess.
Homer makes it seem like Agamemnon is the villain while Achilles is the hero. Achilles’ internal conflict shows how he must cope with not having Briseis in his arms because he did not want to fight in the war. Even so, Odysseus longs to return to his homeland, Ithaca, and “…his sweet life [is] flowing away with the tears he wept for his foiled journey home” (Odyssey. 5. 168-169). Odysseus is depressed because he wants to return to his home in Ithaca and see his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, after fighting in the Trojan War.
He feels as if his life is transitioning from sweet to bitter. Homer uses imagery to show how Odysseus is crying for his homeland, Ithaca. It creates a depressing mood for the reader because all Odysseus wants is to see his family and return home after a tiresome war, but has failed. The metaphor of Achilles’ sweet life flowing away demonstrates how his lamentations are characterizing him as homesick and how he might not make it through his journey. Achilles struggles with not having a prize while Agamemnon struggles with not sleeping in his own bed for an extensive time.
The difference between the internal conflicts is that Achilles cannot fight in war because Briseis is not with him while Odysseus cannot return home and reunite with his family after fighting in the war. Although they both have concerns for their loved ones, Achilles and Odysseus must set them aside and fight their enemies first. Achilles and Odysseus are both epic heroes because they face their external conflicts or struggles with the world and fight as strong warriors. First, Achilles stabbed Hektor in the neck and then “…had in mind for Hektor’s body outrage and shame.
Behind both feet he pierced the tendons, heel to ankle. Rawhide cords he drew through both and lashed them to his chariot, letting the man’s head trail” (Iliad. 22. 467-471). Achilles fights and kills Hektor outside the walls of Troy because he killed Achilles’ best friend, Patroclus. After stabbing Hektor in the throat, he ties Hektor’s ankles to his chariot and rides off, dragging him. Hektor uses imagery to show how Achilles ties Hektor to his chariot, and injures him while riding off. Homer also uses tone to explain Achilles’ anger toward Hektor for killing Patroclus.
Even so, after slaughtering all of the suitors in his home “Odysseus scanned his house to see if any man still skulked alive, still hoped to avoid black death” (Odyssey. 22. 406-407). Odysseus finally returns to his home in Ithaca disguised as a beggar by Athena. He is only one out of all the suitors to string Odysseus’ bow, because he is Odysseus and stronger than any man alive. Athena then reveals Odysseus and he and his son, Telemachus, kill all of the suitors in his home. Homer uses imagery to show Odysseus looking around his house to find any more suitors that were still alive.
He wanted to no suitor was still alive so he could be in peace with his wife, Penelope. His external conflict is not being able to return home in peace. He must kill all of the suitors, for they wanted to marry Penelope and become King of Ithaca. Odysseus needed to show that he had returned as King of Ithaca and was more powerful than all of the suitors combined. Achilles’ external conflict is fighting Hektor and Odysseus’ external conflict is conquering the suitors. Achilles and Odysseus deal with their external conflicts by conquering their enemies.
Achilles and Odysseus are both motivated to face and conquer their struggles with the world for glory and revenge. In fact, Achilles chased Hektor around the walls of Troy three times and “… ran full speed, and not for bull’s hide or a ritual beast or any prize that men compete for: no but for the life of Hektor, tamer of horses” (Iliad. 22. 189-192). Achilles chases Hektor around the walls of Troy three times because he wants to kill him as a prize. Achilles wants to receive the glory of a stronger warrior and seek revenge on Hektor for killing his best friend, Patroclus.
Homer uses imagery to show Achilles’ determination to have Hektor’s dead body for revenge. The reader can picture swift-footed Achilles on the heels of Hektor, tamer of horses. Achilles almost reaches Hektor, while Hektor almost outruns Achilles. In the end, Achilles conquers Hektor and gains glory for being the stronger warrior and proving himself to being larger-than-life. And then, Odysseus is determined to be reunited with his wife, Penelope, and says “Nevertheless I long-I pine, all my days-to travel home and see the dawn of my return. And if a god wreck me yet again on the wine-dark sea, I can bear that too…” (Odyssey. . 241-244). Odysseus does not give up returning to Ithaca because he wants to see his family. He will bear anything that comes along his way to his journey home. Homer uses mood to make the reader feel hope for Odysseus on returning home safely and how he is ready to fight obstacles that the gods put upon him along his journey. He is motivated to return home because he wants to conquer the suitors, which will earn him glory and prove him to be larger-than-life. He also wants to seek revenge on the suitors that have caused Penelope harm while he was away.
It proves that Odysseus saved his wife with the help of his son and how he ranks higher than the suitors. Achilles fights Hektor for his body and glory from the Greeks. Odysseus wants to return home so he can be glorified after seeking revenge on the suitors by murdering them. Achilles and Odysseus both seek revenge on their enemies for what they have done to their loved ones. Achilles and Odysseus are well-known heroes in Homer’s epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. Through both poems, the heroes experience internal and external conflicts such as battles with other warriors and missing loved nes. Glory plays a huge role in these characters and they want to be well-known for their actions such as how Achilles conquered Hektor or how Odysseus conquered the suitors. Achilles and Odysseus have the main characteristics of an epic hero, but gain them in different ways. In their internal conflicts, Achilles misses Briseis while Odysseus misses his home, Ithaca, as well as his wife Penelope, and son, Telemachus. In The Iliad, Achilles and Briseis are separated from each other just as how Princess Odette and Prince Derek and separated from each other in the 1994 movie, The Swan Princess.
The internal conflict of Achilles can be related to movies such as The Swan Princess today. In their external conflicts, Achilles fights Hektor, tamer of horses, while Odysseus fights the commanding suitors in Ithaca. Achilles conquers Hektor for his life and to gain glory by becoming the greater warrior. Odysseus along with his son, Telemachus, conquers the suitors and gain glory. Achilles and Odysseus seek revenge on their enemies. Achilles kills Hektor because he killed his best friend, Patroclus. He lost his best friend forever and needed to get Hektor back by taking his life.
Odysseus seeks revenge on the suitors for harming his wife and taking advantage of her hospitality, such as making a mess during feasts. People today also seek revenge on people that have caused them harm. Achilles and Odysseus have shaped what an epic hero is and show that even though they lived two different lives, they both showed the characteristics of an epic hero and how they must be a brave and powerful warrior who is motivated to fight both internal and external conflicts to achieve glory. Overall, although Achilles and Odysseus are two different characters, their similar characteristics define what an epic hero is.