Hero Essay Example (Tragic Hero vs Epic Hero)

The characters in Homer's The Odyssey and Sophocles' Oedipus the King represent certain characteristics identified by the authors. These characteristics help form opinions that the audience relies on to reflect upon a poem or play. They help understand the nature of the characters. The characteristics the authors suggest are aimed at making the reader have a subjective understanding of a particular work. The writers often portray these features through the character's actions, through what they say and what others say about them. Both Oedipus and Odysseus have lived in different time periods. While The Odyssey was written in 850-750 BC, Oedipus the King was written in 496-406 BC (Collits). The epic poems were written in different cities. The Odyssey features an adventurous story while Oedipus the King is a tragic story. This paper will compare and contrast Oedipus and Odysseus as characters.

In Homer's The Odyssey and Sophocles' Oedipus the King, the authors describe what other people say of the main characters, revealing their emotions and attitudes, as well as what the heroes say about themselves and their surroundings. What they say is important; their words reveal the heroes' true self. When other characters speak about a certain hero, they may mask or distort their sincere thoughts. A character's speech, however calculated or controlled, is likely to show character attributes and flaws. Strict narration frequently polarizes a character, sometimes giving them defining characteristics such as good or evil, black or white, and so on.

Both Oedipus and Odysseus are kings who rule kingdoms in cities of Greece. In Homer's The Odyssey, Odysseus was an influential Greek champion, a trusted adviser and counselor during the Trojan War (Collits). He devised the famous stratagem: the Trojan Horse. Odysseus was cunning and intelligent; these features were often manifested by his use of deceptive speech and disguise.

Both epic poems are similar in that they expose conflict in the beginning. In The Odyssey, the main character has been in captivity under the nymph Calypso for twenty years. The author portrays him as a strong man, since he fought against the city of Troy previously. In the meantime, his son and wife have been eagerly waiting for his return. Odysseus' son Telemachus takes upon responsibility of protecting the family as he has to deal with suitorswho seek to marry his mother and squander his father's wealth. Therefore, it is evident that Odysseus has a supportive and strong family. The unruly suitors who seek to marry Penelope believe that Odysseus has already died.

Odysseus is a very patient man since he spends nine years to reach Ithaca after the Trojan War (Collits). The Thebes people beg Oedipus to determine the cause of the plague. The King swears to find the one responsible for the plague and kill him and his accomplices. By questioning everybody including his wife, the King shows that he is superstitious and cynical. He does not believe that the blind seer Tiresias is responsible for the plague, even when the latter tells so. Homer portrays the King's cynicism in the event when Oedipus believes that Jocasta's brother should be held accountable; the King believes that his brother is plotting to take the throne. Oedipus also accuses Tiresias of deceit and being a false prophet. He only solves the mystery of his birth when he realizes that his supposed father, King Polybus of Corinth, has died of natural causes.

Both Odysseus and Oedipus are depicted as supermen because of their tenacious firmness. Oedipus is a regarded with appreciation and has a great reputation; he is trusted with the well-being and safety of the community. He is distinguished due to his determination. Both Homer and Sophocles portray crude habits in their heroes.

Both Odysseus and Oedipus are controlled by their gods and play their roles accordingly. When returning from the Trojan War, Odysseus finds it hard to reach Ithaca; the God of the Sea, Poseidon, resents Odysseus and tests his fate by making him undergo torturous times (Collits). In The Odyssey, Zeus is in charge of everything including the search for Poseidon. Goddess Athena helps and guides the hero. She helps Odysseus to finish off a large number of suitors intending to marry Penelope. On the other hand, in Oedipus the King, it is certain that Oedipus will fail, as the prophecy was made a long-time ago. It stated that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus blames the god Apollo for what befalls him. The gods controlled the actions of every human with ease and made human beings appear completely dependent and controllable.

Odysseus, as an epic hero, is a brave man who makes the right choices. For example, he fights for his community and makes good decisions for its members. Oedipus, as a tragic hero, is depicted as a huge failure who makes poor choices. For example, upon learning that he had committed incest with his mother, he condemns himself to roam in darkness for the rest of his life. He says:

For me -/ never let this my father's city have me/ living a dweller in it. Leave me live/ in the mountains where Cithaeron is, that's called/ my mountain, which my mother and father/ while they were living would have made my tomb./ So I may die by their decree who sought indeed to kill me (Grene).

Oedipus and Odysseus are kings that have the ability to act in an emergency. They also react to people's perceptions and needs. Oedipus is confident about his own abilities and understands that people respect him for that. He also has past achievements that boost people's faith in him.

Oedipus and Odysseus behave differently when crisis situations become more complicated. When they do, Oedipus does not adapt to new situations, attempt to learn or change. He is inflexible and is always determined to solve problems through his own terms. He believes that after accepting the responsibility of saving Thebes, nothing should compromise his determination. He expects nature to provide answers to him, and he imposes his will upon anyone and any event. He does not heed to the messages warning him to be cautious.

Both Oedipus and Odysseus are portrayed as kings who have performed well in their respective communities. For example, Odysseus has fought for his community before, and Oedipus has solved the problem affecting Sphinx when its people asked him to help them. In the current plague, however, crops have been affected by blight, there are women delivering stillborns or dying after giving birth, and the cattle are becoming sick.
As pointed earlier, both Oedipus and Odysseus receive much appreciation and reverence from their community members. The veneration that Odysseus receives from the community is evident in the episode where Zeusasks his daughter Athena to notify Odysseus' family that Odysseus is alive. Oedipus was crowned king out of reverence for dealing with the Sphinx problem.

Both Oedipus and Odysseus express responsibility. For example, Odysseus goes to
fight in the Trojan War, and King Oedipus sends Creon, his brother-in-law, to the Oracle of Apollo to get answers so he can solve the city's plague. By showing responsibility and taking initiative, they become saviors to their communities.

The families of Oedipus and Odysseus are strong and have values. Penelope, Odysseus' wife, is faithful to him, and she does not remarry even she does not know about her husband's whereabouts. Jocasta, Oedipus' wife, attempted to calm him down when he is furious from accusations of murder.

Both kings are involved in dramatic twists. For example, in The Odyssey, the gods knew about Odysseus' location and his future role, but he and Ithaca people did not. Oedipus' subjects knew that he would fulfill the famous prediction and his people would suffer; he was perplexed about the incest and his father's death. There are differences between the portrayal of Oedipus and Odysseus in terms of the progress of the conflict. Odysseus blinded Poseidon's son and led to his capture and his family's suffering. Calypso kept Odysseus imprisoned because she desired to marry him. The suffering the people of Thebes went through was instigated by the actions of Oedipus; he killed his father and married his mother. Oedipus and Odysseus are involved in two stories that have completely dissimilar endings. While Odysseus works hard to return to his people, Oedipus is displaced from Thebes.

Odysseus is portrayed as a very patient and strong character, while Oedipus is light-minded and acts rashly. The families of Oedipus and Odysseus are strong and have values. Oedipus and Odysseus are kings that have the ability to act in an emergency and show responsibility. Both are portrayed as kings who have done great things for their communities before. Both Odysseus and Oedipus play their roles and are controlled by their gods. Both kings pass torment. Oedipus is depicted as a failure and someone who makes poor choices. Towards the end of the story, Oedipus makes even more irrational decisions than in the beginning. Odysseus, on the other hand, remains steady and true to his character. While the two poems deal with the challenges faced by the two kings living in different time periods, they reveal that they both faced societal issues that are common to almost all men.

Works Cited

  1. Collits, Terry. "The Riddle of the Text: Sophocles'Oedipus the King." 2008. Web. 1 Dec. 2014 <http://openjournals.library.usyd.edu.au/index.php/SSE/article/viewFile/591/560>.
  2. Sophocles. "Oedipus the King." Trans. David Grene. n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://abs.kafkas.edu.tr/upload/225/Oedipus_the_King_Full_Text.pdf>.
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