So my progress in reading this great epic is chugging along nicely, despite my two small children trying to crawl all over me as I read or other such cute distractions.
Anyhow, through my reading I have found Odysseus to be a formidable man, extremely capable in everything it seems and also of an amazingly clever and sound mind. Well almost always of sound mind. Which brings me to the title of this blog, there is one particular part of the story that stands out in stark contrast to Odysseus’ normal level headed character. Now if you have read this wonderful tale of Odysseus’ ill fated journey home you probably know what I am talking about. That is right Polyphemus the cyclops. This is what I saw from Odysseus in this part of the story. It seems to me to be his single most incredible act of cunning or guile or whatever you want to call it, also I have to say it took a fair amount of courage on his part. His ability to plan his escape from the cyclops was nothing short of amazing from the crafting of the weapon to getting the cyclops drunk to being able to predict the cyclops actions once blinded, referring to himself as nobody so when he alerted the other of his kind in the area he would go on to say basically nobody did this to me. Then lashing himself and his men to the undersides of the animals so the cyclops would not be able to detect their escape. Pretty ingenious if you ask me, I would never have been to plan anything so perfectly, his tactics were sly yet effective against an evil foe. So whats the problem here you might be asking right now, he has obviously displayed the same characteristics that you yourself have ascribed to him. Well it is the next part that is what I have been building up to. After Odysseus returns to his ship and he is sailing away he calls back to the cyclops with taunts. The cyclops reacts just as you think, with anger whipping a large chunk of rock at him almost sinking his ship, but does Odysseus stop there? Oh no he continues to taunt the Cyclops again endangering his men and ship, the cyclops chucks another hunk of rock at him.
So why does Odysseus act this way? Does he have some sort of multiple personality? I mean his actions up to this point in the story would lead you to believe that we wouldn’t engage in such reckless foolishness. Could it be his pride that led him to these actions. I have even heard the term hubris applied to Odysseus, and that was the reason for his actions. I mean that very well could be it, I mean he was a very good friend to the hero Achilles, and we all know how he was. Either of those could be an explanation but I would like to offer another possibility. Blood lust. Frequently when men of fighting stock engage in battle, whether is be in an open battle army against army or man against cyclops, after a certain point a man can become enraged in what has been called blood lust, caught up in the heat of battle they turn into death incarnate bringing destruction to all that stand in their path, I think this is the reason for Odysseus’ actions after fleeing the cyclops. The effects of the blood lust were wearing off, he was upset, he hadn’t defeated his opponent and wanted to offer some further pain and suffering to his enemy and the only way he could think to do it was through taunts.
What do you think is the reason for Odysseus’ out of character behavior?