[ExI] re Odyssey, hero

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 30 01:50:35 UTC 2015

On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 3:53 PM, William Flynn Wallace <foozler83 at gmail.com>

> On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 3:26 PM, Dan TheBookMan <danust2012 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 12:21 PM, William Flynn Wallace <
>> foozler83 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Yes, it has a happy ending, if you like wide scale murder from a thug.
>>> Odysseus is a thug:  raider of villages, murderer, raper, thief.
>>> This is a hero?
>> By whose moral standards? I think that of that time, he was likely viewed
>> as a hero -- a very different kind of hero too since he used his wits
>> rather than brute force -- to succeed. And the happy ending is he gets
>> back, despite a god being against him and all the trials, manages to save
>> his wife and house.
>> Note, too, that this seems an extra-esthetics question: what's heroic or
>> moral is not determined by art but something removed from it. Of course,
>> someone like Ayn Rand might argue that the two are closely tied together.
>> She believed art is supposed to project the moral ideal. You might look at
>> her esthetics, since some of what she says seems to go along with your
>> tastes.
>> And is a hero -- in the sense of some titan, moral or otherwise --
>> necessary to have a happy ending? If the protagonists win in the end and
>> she or he is not too bad and the endeavor is not too repugnant to your
>> moral sensibilities -- in other words, it's not about a a sociopath wanting
>> to burn puppies alive getting his happy ending because he thwarts animals
>> lovers to live his dream -- then isn't that a happy ending? You know, like
>> in a rom-com?
>>  One should not apply current morality to what is going on the Illiad or
>> Odyssey. (Anders)
>> Come on, Anders, 'should not'?  I don't like 'should'.  It restricts me
> unnecessarily.

Well, if you want to understand why others might think Odysseus was a hero
and the epic based on his story is one with a happy ending, especially if
those others lived thousands of years ago and were members of a culture
very different from ours, then it might not be helpful to apply
contemporary moral standards as if they illuminate. You think of Odysseus
as a thug, but that wouldn't have been so for Homer's ancient audience in
my understanding. They would see him as offering up a moral example as well
as his story being entertaining and would likely be rooting for him against
his myriad enemies, including the Suitors. At least, this is my

(It's interesting, too, watching a recent TV version of Shakespeare's
"Henry V" how I would agree with many of your moral intuitions here about
Henry V. The titular character in the play goes pillaging and destroying
across France because he's been slighted and has some claims to the lands.
This gives him the right to threaten to destroy cities and murder with
abandon. But I can step back from this and see how Shakespeare's initial
audience might not have agreed with my views.)

I am supposed to apply other peoples' standards, not my own? O killed all
> of this household staff, did he not?  This is happy?

In the context of the epic, though, those people were bad people. The staff
he killed were siding with the Suitors -- the Suitors who were merely
trying to grab power in Ithaca. Also, they would've have forcibly married
his wife and likely have killed his son. Even if you feel Odysseus was a
thug, they were no better. But in the context of the story, they're
supposedly much worse. (Another moral problem for me is a god blinds many
of them to their hubris -- similar to how the god of the Jews blinds the
pharaoh to his hubris, helping to seal his fate. Why not simply let them
see the error of their ways and change? Well, would we remember such an
alternative epic? Imagine "King Lear" rewritten so that Lear doesn't make
his mistakes and is a bit wiser and less angry. It might please you as a
lover of happy endings, but it be boring as hell.)

> ​OK, happy if you are a thug without a conscience.  Surely you can agree
>> that he is that by our standards.  Was Torquemada a great Christian by the
>> standards of the day?
> ​Heroes can have tragic endings.  Jesus for one.  I am sure a Christian
> would argue that it was the fulfillment of a prophecy and was wonderful,
> but to me it's tragic.​

To Christians, of course, Jesus is resurrected, so there's a big difference
there: he ultimately wins.

Heroes can indeed have tragic endings, though the reason I raised up the
example of this epic was that it's conventionally considered to have a
happy ending: despite all his troubles, the protagonist succeeds in the
end. He gets home, defeats his enemies, and wins in the end. Not so for
many of his companions and colleagues. (Think of what happens to Achilles,
Ajax, Agamemnon, and Menelaus. Of course, the last survives and gets home
earlier, but it doesn't look like all's well in his house.)

> ​By the way, Ilium and Olympos, by Dan Simmons​
> ​, follow the Trojan war, sort of, and are fine fantasy/scifi.

Thanks for the recommendation. I really enjoyed Simmons' _The Song of


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