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The Poem “Odyssey” by Homer: Episode with Cyclops


One of the most known adventures of Odysseus is the encounter with cyclops and, more specifically, Polyphemus, and this episode serves as a turning point in the narrative. It is critical for understanding the consequent events as they happen under the influence of evil powers, which postpone the hero’s return home to his wife and son (Felton, 2018). From this perspective, the analysis of this part of the story is crucial for grasping the meaning of external circumstances, which affect one’s life and make people demonstrate the strength of character for reaching goals. In addition, this scene confirms the action of opposing forces in the world with regard to morality and its violation. Therefore, the episode with cyclops drastically modifies the heroes’ plans and makes them display multiple positive traits for overcoming obstacles and dealing with improper values of the monsters.

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The Importance of the Episode for Plot and Characterization

The significance of the examined episode for the plot is conditional upon the unexpected change, which happens in the story after meeting the giant inhabitants of caves. The need to find food and thereby combat hunger leads the heroes into a trap as they end up on the island, which belongs to the cyclops Polyphemus (Homer, 2020). The terrible conditions of the characters’ fate and the subsequent events are explained by the varying perceptions of appropriateness in the life of the one-eyed creatures and the men. Thus, the emergence of a new threat alongside the loss of their ships and other belongings adds to the necessity to survive (Homer, 2020). It happens to be critical and makes them forget about their desire to return home since no future is guaranteed unless they find a solution and manage to escape the monsters, which eat people.

In turn, characterization is another aspect of the matter, which is depicted by the narrative. It is reflected by the evidence of the traits, which help Odysseus and his men deceive Polyphemus. Even though their morality also remains dubious, it is more of a response to the negative circumstances triggered by cyclops’ evil nature rather than their initial intentions to bring harm. From this point of view, the encounter between Polyphemus and Odysseus is the collision of characters in which the latter is shown as a brave man (Aguirre and Buxton, 2020). Meanwhile, he is guided by fear in the first place, and this factor results in the appearance of other positive sides (Cooper, 2017).

They include a variety of characteristics combined under the notion of emotional intelligence and, particularly, the ability to predict feelings and thoughts for adjusting behavior depending on a situation (Minchin, 2019). Thus, the successful solution of problems is underpinned by projecting Polyphemus’ decisions in the case of implementing the plan.

Odysseus and Polyphemus: Values of the World

Another significant aspect of the poem is the representation of values of the world, which shows a deeper conflict between Odysseus and Polyphemus. Their interaction confirms the use of varying moral guidance, which also explains their actions. From this perspective, Odysseus symbolizes civilization as it was perceived by the Greek society of the time (Felton, 2018). It is based on a strict hierarchical structure with corresponding legal regulations and cooperation between people (Felton, 2018).

Therefore, it is not surprising that the men are compassionate and virtuous as they care about one another’s wellbeing when designing a plan of escape (Homer, 2020). Meanwhile, the positive values and, more specifically, hospitality of Odysseus and his team are projected onto cyclops, who do not share them (Felton, 2018). This circumstance is the reason why the heroes are trapped on the island in the first place.

Cyclops and Polyphemus, in particular, follow the principles of individualism, which the author condemns. As can be seen from the narrative, the conduct of these monsters is opposed to all of the critical values of the people mentioned above.

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Thus, they do not care about anyone, but their families and have no laws regulating their relationships (Felton, 2018). In other words, all the vices of men, which are revealed when violating the main principles of humanism, correlate with the lifestyle of cyclops. In this way, their pride and alleged superiority are not supported by any factors, and this condition explains why they are inferior to Odysseus and his people. In the end, the described collision of values corresponds to the idea of guiding societal activity on the governmental level for promoting prosperity on the grounds of specific virtues.


In conclusion, the importance of the episode with cyclops to the plot is supported by the fact that it changes the fate of the heroes. Meanwhile, it also leads to the demonstration of positive traits, which include emotional intelligence and courage, allowing them to survive in the end. The conflict, in this case, is not limited to the attempts of cyclops to eat the people since the interaction between Odysseus and Polyphemus shows the presence of opposing views. The former’s morality based on cooperation and regulations is emphasized as superior, whereas the latter’s individualism is presented as inappropriate for survival. In this way, the analysis of this episode proves its significance for the plot, characterization, and the presentation of values of the Greek world.

Reference List

Aguirre, M. and Buxton, R. (2020) Cyclops: The myth and its cultural history. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cooper, S. (2017) ‘Speculative fiction, ecocriticism, and the wanderings of Odysseus’, Ramus, 48(2), pp. 95-126. Web.

Felton, D. (2018) ‘Homer, The Odyssey, Odysseus and his men encounter the cyclops’, in Mittman, A.S. and Hensel, M. (eds.) Primary sources on monsters. Amsterdam: ARC, Amsterdam University Press, pp. 33-41.

Homer (2020) The Odyssey. Oliver: Engage Books.

Minchin, E. (2019) ‘Odysseus, emotional intelligence, and the plot of the Odyssey’, Mnemosyne, 72, pp. 351-368. Web.

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