The Odyssey

book 9

Odysseus speaks of his travels to king alcinous who gives a banquet in his honor. He first tells his identity then his character. what does the reader learn from this about Odysseus

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As we saw in Book VIII, in which Odysseus angrily reacted to an athletic challenge, he is prone to rash decisions. First, he makes the mistake of wanting to meet Polyphemus even as his men warn him against it. This action we can chalk up to Odysseus' faith in the goodwill of men (and even Cyclopes). But he makes a far more egregious error when he taunts Polyphemus not once but twice. This second mistake is what creates his problem with Poseidon, as he foolishly reveals his name and invites the wrath of the god of earthquake - and subsequently dooms his shipmates.

But for every lapse in judgment on his part, Odysseus devises an equally ingenious plan to escape trouble. Prior to the Polyphemus episode, he wisely steers his crew away from the land of the hedonistic, drug-addled Lotus Eaters, knowing that succumbing to temptation there will prevent them from the more authentic pleasures of home. With Polyphemus, he comes up with three brilliant ideas: crafting a spike to blind Polyphemus in his one vulnerable spot; calling himself "Nohbdy" so that the other Cyclopes will not know who blinded Polyphemus; and fashioning the slings under the rams for escape. In each instance, a man of lesser tactical ability would have gone for the simpler solution (killing Polyphemus when he was sleeping by the doorway; revealing his name right away; trying to run by Polyphemus) with destructive consequences.