The Odyssey: the Use of HubrisGet Your
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“There is no safety in unlimited hubris” (McGeorge Bundy). The dictionary defines hubris as overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance. In The Odyssey, Homer embodies hubris into the characters Odysseus, the Suitors, and the Cyclopes. Odysseus shows hubris when he is battling the Cyclopes, the Cyclopes show hubris when dealing with Odysseus, and the Suitors show it when Odysseus confronts them at his home. To start, within the course of The Odyssey, Odysseus displays hubris through many of his actions.
The most prominent instance in which Odysseus shows hubris is while he and his men are trying to escape from the Cyclops Polyphemus. They drug the monster until it passes out, and then stab him with a timber in his single eye. Polyphemus, now blinded, removes the gigantic boulder blocking Odysseus’ escape, and waits for the men to move, so he can kill them. The men escape from the cave to their boat by tying themselves under flocks of rams, so they can easily slip by. Odysseus, now proud after beating the giant, starts to yell at Polyphemus, instead of making a silent escape.
Odysseus’ men ask him to stop before Polyphemus would “get the range and lob a boulder” (436). But Odysseus shows hubris by saying that if they were to meet again, Odysseus would “take your life” and “hurl you down to hell! ” (462; 463). Polyphemus, now extremely angry with Odysseus, prays to his father, Poseidon, to make Odysseus “never see his home” again, and after which, throws a mountain towards the sound of Odysseus’ voice. (470). Because of Odysseus’ hubris after blinding Polyphemus, Poseidon grants the prayer, and it takes Odysseus 20 years to return home, at the cost of the lives of all his men.
Next, Polyphemus demonstrates hubris by believing that because he is a giant, he is unbeatable by anyone, even a god. This is shown when Odysseus meets Polyphemus and greets him with gifts, as it is a custom to show courtesy to hosts and guests alike, (unexpected or not). Failure to give gifts can lead to revenge from the gods. Odysseus tells Polyphemus this, but Polyphemus “would not let you go for fear of Zeus” because the Cyclopes “have more force by far “.
Polyphemus then angers the gods further by kidnapping and eating Odysseus’ men, both of which are considered extremely uncivil in Greek society. Polyphemus is so confident in his invulnerability he lets the men roam free inside the cave, a mistake that leads to his downfall. Odysseus and his men acquire a timber, which they cut and burn to a fine point, and plan to attack the Cyclops with it. Odysseus then gets Polyphemus drunk, and when he passes out, takes the timber and drills it into the eye of Polyphemus, completely blinding him forever.
Polyphemus’ hubris in believing he is invulnerable and his total lack of the respect for the gods caused him to be blinded forever. Finally, the Suitors display hubris by having no regard for common decency and lack of respect towards others when they take over Odysseus’ home and family, because they believe, as royalty, they have a right. Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar and goes to his home to beg for his own food, where he meets, and has an encounter with “the most arrogant and outspoken of the suitors” Antinous (pg 638).
When Odysseus asks for his own food he is assaulted with a stool thrown by Antinous. Odysseus then points out the selfishness of the suitors when they eat another person’s food but won’t share some of it with other people. When Odysseus removes the disguise, and reveals himself, the suitors offer restution for their actions and behavior towards Odysseus’ family, at which, Odysseus rejects and, and along with Telemachus, proceeds to destroy the remaining suitors.
Because of their hubris in believing they had the right to another’s dynasty, the suitors paid the ultimate price. ;br; ;br;In summary, Odysseus, the Suitors, and Cyclops all exhibit hubris throughout The Odyssey. Homer illustrates his characters in The Odyssey to show hubris through their thoughts, words, and actions. Hubris is everywhere within literature and everyday life, but it is especially prominent within The Odyssey.
Author: Christen Curtis
The Odyssey: the Use of Hubris
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I came across an article where a banker left a 1% tip in defiance of “the 99%” at a restaurant. According to his dining partner, the banker “tips exactly 1% every time he feels the server does not sufficiently bow down to his Holiness.” He also makes sure to include a “tip” of his own. This “tip” was to tell the server to “get a real job.”
Clearly, there are all kinds of people in this world. But it is the dangers of pride that concerns me here. Pride can happen to anyone, not just the rich and powerful. If we allow our pride to get the better of us, our downfall is not far off.
Quick Note: Thanks to the heads up by my friend Vishnu Virtues, it seems that the receipt is a hoax. This is good to know because the server did not actually have to put up with such a nasty customer.
What is Pride?
Wikipedia defines pride as:
“A loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.”
The following definitions come from dictionary.com.
“A high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.”
“Offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.”
Breeding Grounds for Pride and Arrogance
To manage pride, we must be aware of the conditions where pride can grow and thrive.
1. Times of Success
Repeated success can make one proud. After all, everything is going well and it seems that you can do no wrong. Over time, pride can get the better of you by making you complacent. This is especially so if good times or times of ease follow your success.
But bad times follow good times as surely as day follows night. As tempting as it is, we cannot assume that things will always go well. Such an attitude can cause us to be unprepared to manage a sudden change in fortune.
2. Positions of Power and Responsibility
To rule is to serve. But it is easy to forget this when you hold a position of power and responsibility. Power can corrupt and pride can get the better of you. Over time, you might think that you are entitled to certain privileges because things would collapse without you. Instead of putting the interests of others first, you may end up putting your own interests first.
But the higher you climb, the more drastic your fall can be. After all, when you have reached the top, the only way left is down.
The Dangers of Pride and Arrogance
Having seen the conditions where pride can grow and thrive, what then are the dangers of pride?
Repeated success dulls your sharpness and makes you complacent. There is less incentive to be alert and careful with your approach and methods when things are going your way. After all, if it is not broken, why fix it?
But here lies the danger. An approach might work for one set of conditions but not another. If you become less than thorough in your plans and execution of your methods due to pride in your ability, it could lead to trouble.
2. Careless and Needless Mistakes
During times of adversity when you struggle for survival, there is no room for pride. As such, your methods, forged in the trials of hardship and necessity, are the best. You would quickly discard methods that do not work and keep those that do.
But pride can cause you to make careless and needless mistakes due to a lack of prudence. You may trust too much in your ability or underestimate the situation. As such, you may not be as thorough or as cautious as you used to be. This lack of caution can lead to a disastrous turn of events.
3. Loss of Awareness
Pride can insulate one from well-meaning advice. The last thing a proud person would want to hear is something that cuts him or her down to size. The very idea that they can be wrong or make a mistake is sacrilegious. To utter such words is blasphemy!
Proud people live high up in their ivory towers. They are unaware of all that happens in the realm of mortals. When unpleasant truths confront them, they either filter them out completely or hear and see selectively. This loss of awareness will bring about their downfall sooner than later.
4. Alienate People
One of the worst things about pride is that it can alienate people. Making boastful claims or boasting about your success, connections and power will not endear people to you. Also, it will not do your relationships any good if you hog all the credit for yourself. Such actions will only create resentment and turn people against you.
Proud people often find themselves without friends or support. This state of affairs can hardly turn out well for them.
5. Overreaching and Falling
Pride can cloud your judgement and make you lose touch with reality. As a result, you might end up striving for things that you think is possible, but in reality is beyond your reach. This could simply be a matter of a lack of caution and planning. Or it could be a matter of timing. In either case, the result is failure because of overreaching.
It is said that pride comes before a fall. This fall can be fatal if you overreach, lose your footing and fall from the height of your success and power.
Managing Pride and Arrogance
Everything in this world is impermanent and fleeting. Nothing lasts forever and fortunes change constantly. So whatever we feel proud about will one day change as all things change. What then is the basis for our pride?
While it is good and healthy to feel pride in our achievements, we should not let it get the better of us. We should not let our pride go to extremes. Instead, it pays to be moderate when it comes to feeling pride. The Universe helps the modest to prosper but brings down the arrogant.
Is there anything I have missed out about the dangers of pride and arrogance? What are your thoughts and feelings about pride and arrogance? Are there any redeeming qualities? Is there any room in this world for pride and arrogance? Have you ever met any proud and nasty people? How did that turn out for you?
Have you ever struggled with pride? How did it turn out? What areas of your life do you find it hardest to manage your pride? Does your pride get the better of you or are you in control? Do share your thoughts and comments below!
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