Odysseus has both internal and external qualities. He is described as “courteous” in Book 6 when he begs for help first Nausicaa and later her mother – Arete. Despite being overtired, hungry and powerless Odysseus does not forget his good manners – “I should be ashamed to stand naked”, “it would be better to keep distance”. Courteousness is quality common for heroes, kings and noble men especially in similar circumstances. Being 7 years on Ogygia most people would look rude and arrogant, but not the king of Ithaca. Furthermore Odysseus is “looks like the gods who live in heaven”, he is “handsome” and “admirable”. Nausicaa is immediately attracted by “the stranger’s” appearance – “I wish I could have a man like him for my husband”.
It is not the first time a woman wants to marry him – he has just got rid of the Nymph Calypso. But Odysseus remains faithful to his wife Penelope and keeps her in his thoughts, a testament for their strong relation. He is ready to endure anything to reach Ithaca – “It’s my never-failing wish” – and to hug his wife and son, a proof for his loyalty towards his family and people.
Odysseus is not only well-mannered and handsome but strong and skillful, as well. Firstly, he makes a raft by himself on Ogygia and secondly he throws the biggest discus at enormous distance. The Phaeacians are amazed by his power and strength; no one dares to challenge him in any kind of sport. That is the place where Odysseus’ supremacy is shown. He is not only incredible but he totally dominates over all Phaeacians – something common for hero or even god.
Finally Odysseus is an amazing orator – he is not just good, but he deceives and attracts people with his words. In Book 6, 7 and 8 there are some moments when everybody “stood still and silent” after Odysseus has finished speaking. Firstly, he knows how to draw attention and make compliments – e.g. Book 6 the meeting with Nausicaa – “Are you some goddess or a mortal woman?” “It is Artemis… your beauty reminds me.” Secondly, Odysseus is very good at begging, he knows the right way for everything – e.g. the meeting with Arete and Alcinous in Book 7 – “They all applaud his speech and agreed the stranger should be escorted home.” Thirdly, Odysseus is persuasive and makes people like him – Alcinous is ready to give him “a house and riches” if he marries Nausicaa. Lastly, he knows how to defend himself when he is challenged or offended – Book 8 Odysseus “talks sense”.
On the other side in Books 5-8 Odysseus is often described as weak and not perfect at all.
The first time when we meet him in Book 5 he is “sitting disconsolate … with steaming eyes”. So despite being a hero and a tough man he weeps and he misses home, wife and son. He seems heart-broken and lost far from his people and emotionally weak. When Calypso informs him that he is to leave Ogygia, Odysseus can’t believe – he feels a mixture of excitement and desperation, showing his broken spirit.
Later Odysseus overcomes the battle with Poseidon, but on the other side Ino helps him to do so. Indeed when the wave crashes down on him his “knees shook and his spirit failed”. It seems that his death is inevitable and Odysseus almost “give up”. He wishes really strong to have “met his fate” in the Trojan War. That is not the way one king and hero should think – Odysseus lacks braveness and toughness.
The storm is not the only place where Odysseus is helped by a god. Actually, most of the time Athene organizes the things to happen the right way. It seems as Odysseus doesn’t need to do anything – he just should sit and wait for something to happen – e.g. “At this they all gave a shriek.” Then Odysseus awakes and sees the Nausicaa sent by the disguised Athene. The real hero always makes the decisions by himself and acts bravely.
This behavior continues in the Palace of Alcinous. Firstly, his heart is “filled with emotions”. Secondly, Odysseus looks pathetic – he begs and kneels. It is normal for stranger to do so, but Odysseus is the most famous hero from the Trojan War and King of Ithaca. At first he does not behave as a noble man, but this changes quickly. Odysseus starts to speak more and more bravely and in Book 8 he seems rather arrogant and bold – “I claim to be by far the best” and he is ready “to compete with the men of the past” like Heracles. The change is quite sudden – it happens once Odysseus has assured himself a bed and food.
To sum up, Odysseus has a lot of admirable qualities – he is clever, strong, handsome, courteous and a good orator. However, he is not a god but rather a mortal man. That is why sometimes he looks sad, weak and arrogant. What makes him hero is that he overcomes his negative characteristics (sometimes with Athene’s help) and continues his struggle to reach home – “It’s my never failing wish”.