Throughout Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Odysseus’ actions and choices are the driving point of the plot. When he and his crew encounter Polyphemus the Cyclops, he tries to secure his legacy by shouting his real name, and giving other important information away. The Cyclops prays that a curse befall him and his friends and Poseidon hears him. After this, half of Odysseus’ men are turned into swine when they encounter an enchantress and give into temptation, and though no men are killed, the crew is again delayed in their journey by a year.
Misfortune and death are prevalent throughout the consequent chapters, where men are constantly lost, and those that survive begin to lose faith in their leader. By the end of chapter 12, all of the men have died, and Odysseus is the only survivor; which effectively fulfills the majority of Polyphemus’ curse. These events create a some may claim that the men’s not-so-clever choices are the direct cause of their fates, Odysseus is ultimately at fault. His arrogance and curiosity is responsible for the curse that kills his men and delay his journey home.
It is undoubtedly true that Odysseus’ men make unwise actions which have debilitating consequences. In Book 10, they open a bag of stormy winds thinking it was full of gold, therefore betraying Odysseus’ trust in their abilities to do what was right. This action leads them to Aeaea, where they are set back a year’s time in their journey. The text states that “As we were men we could not help consenting. So day by day we lingered, feasting long on roasts and wine, until a year grew fat.
Both events demonstrates their weaknesses as mortal men, they make their own choices, ignore Odysseus’s advice at times, and give into the temptation of a woman and the promise of food, completely ignoring any signs of danger. Their weakness is showcased again in Book 12, the crew eat Helios’ cattle against both Circe and Odysseus’ warnings, which seemingly leads to their deaths. It may seem that the men are completely at fault for their fate, but this is not so. In book 9, Odysseus calls out to Polyphemus in a fit of pride and arrogance, and gives away his real name.
This proves to be a catastrophic move, because by doing this, he gives Polyphemus the knowledge needed to pray for a curse upon him and the crew. The curse reads, “Should destiny intend that he shall see his roof again… far be that day, and dark the years between. Let him lose all companions, and return… to bitter vs at home. ” When the curse is realized it is clear that had Odysseus listened to his men’s warnings about taunting the Cyclops, the men wouldn’t have had a curse placed upon them. He even acknowledges that the men’s advice was credible, stating in hindsight “Ahh, how sound that was.
Had he shown restraint and respect, the crew would not have been placed in a situation where they feared that their captain acting out of pure arrogance and foolishness. Even though the men’s actions did create havoc, Odysseus is irrevocably at fault for their demise, due to the fact that he placed the men in a position where they were cursed and no longer trusted in their leader. Because Odysseus was arrogant and curious to a fault, it is only natural that the men lost trust in him. In book 9, he claims that the Cyclopes are “louts”, and then says”A wineskin full I brought along… or in my bones I knew some towering brute would be upon us soon. ”
The above quote demonstrate that he knew the Cyclopes were dangerous and unreasonable, but regardless of the risks, he chose to meet the Cyclops. After the he and the crew escaped, only a handful voted that he get the prized ram as his meal, which proves that they felt his leadership was lacking. Their trust is continually lost as ships and crew members are lost, and the men finally decide to ignore him. They are not to blame however, after being put in danger so often, it was only logical that the men began thinking for themselves.
To them, Odysseus had failed as a captain because he didn’t tell them all he knew, he purposefully kept information to himself. After learning of the three beasts, the Sirens, Scylla, and Charybdis, he only tells them of the Sirens, believing that “They would have dropped their oars again, in panic, to roll for cover under the decking. ” This was a tremendous mistake, the men had been loyal to Odysseus for nearly twenty years, and he didn’t trust them to fight to return home. Since the men didn’t know of the beasts, they assumed he recklessly led them towards their deaths, which was not far from the truth.
Odysseus considered disobeying Circe and fighting Scylla, which led them close to Charybdis, the whirlpool. Odysseus’ doubted the gods, and put the crew in jeopardy, which is what led the men to their deaths. Circe had told Odysseus, “hard seafaring brings you all to Ithaca”, but this would have only occurred had he demonstrated he was willing to act with restraint and listen to the gods, as both the enchantress and Tiresias had said he must. He doubted the gods, which shows that he had not learned his lesson yet, thus, the curse was fulfilled.
The men took matters into their own hands and died, all due to Odysseus’ actions and choices. Not only do Odysseus’s actions leave him companionless, they also turn Gods against him. When Odysseus offers Zeus a prized Lamb’s thighbones, he refuses them, and Odysseus realizes his mistake. He states that “Zeus disdained my offering, destruction for my ships he had in store and death for those who sailed them. ” He wanted absolutely nothing to do with him, which told Odysseus that he would have no guidance or protection from him; they would have to take the journey on alone.
It was then that Odysseus knew that the voyage home would be difficult, and that he would have to prove himself by adhering to the god’s advice. The fact that Odysseus does not have Zeus on his side is extremely important, it means that Odysseus would have to prove himself by acting with restraint, the men’s lives depended on it. When Odysseus had a chance to return home with the remaining crew, he was still inclined to disobey the gods thinking that he could fight his way out of his destiny, something for which Circe berated him, saying, “Must you have battle in your heart forever?
The bloody toil of combat? … will you not yield to the immortal gods? ” Odysseus is a fighter, and believes that he is above all, which shows that he still will not “yield”, or admit he’s not equally great. This trait is the root of the issues that arise in the epic tale, and causes the gods to be filled with disdain towards him. It is also the cause of the men’s demise, because of his arrogance, he ruins his chances of returning home with his crew. Odysseus only proves himself after the men die, when he arrives at his hall on Ithaca, alone.
The text reads, “Then Zeus thundered overhead, one loud crack for a sign. And Odysseus laughed within him that the son of… Cronus had flung that omen down. ” Zeus was back on his side, after the curse was fulfilled. This demonstrates that his inability to yield and act with restraint caused the men’s deaths, when he had a chance to save them by not doubting the gods, he failed, which proves his entirely responsible for the men’s demise. Because Odysseus doesn’t prove that he can act with restraint when given orders by the gods until the very end of the tale, he is utterly responsible for the crew’s death.
By doubting the gods and their advice, he created a series of events which delayed his homecoming for years. He acted out of arrogance and and kept information from his companions whom he shared twenty years worth of a journey with, and the men lost their trust in him. It is clear that he is completely at fault for the events that end up killing his crew because he arrogant, unwilling to listen to the gods, and willing to put his men in unnecessary danger.