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The Definition of Heroism

             One individual's idea of a hero may be very different than that of another. However, there are several characteristics common in virtually all definitions of heroism; courage, bravery and willpower to name a few. These heroic characteristics are shared by both Odysseus, epic hero from Homer's The Odyssey, and Ernest Shackleton, one of the greatest Antarctic explorers of our time. Odysseus is the hero of The Odyssey. He possesses qualities superior to those of most men, yet he can be related to. Odysseus demonstrates many heroic qualities throughout The Odyssey. His wisdom is demonstrated upon his ship's arrival at the island of the Lotus-Eaters. Rather than allowing his entire crew to leave the ship and explore the area, Odysseus only allowed two men and one runner to explore the island. This proved to be a wise decision because while exploring, the men ate the Lotus plant and lost all desire to return home. Had Odysseus allowed his entire crew to explore the island, they all might have suffered the same fate. This is one of many incidents in which Odysseus' care and for his crew can be seen.
             Odysseus' encounter with the Cyclops, Polyphemus, demonstrates his resourcefulness and courage. When Odysseus and his twelve best men first met the Cyclops, two men were devoured by the beast. This obviously disturbed the remaining men, but Odysseus refused let his crew lose hope. Rather, he devised a plan to defeat the Cyclops. He and his men got the Cyclops drunk, and then drove a wooden pole into his eye. They then evaded him by hiding under the rams, and escaped the island. This encounter was another test of Odysseus' heroism. Once again, he was victorious and further proved himself as a hero. Ernest Shackleton shares many common qualities with Odysseus. Shackleton's epic tale of courage and survival began with his dream of leading the first expedition to cross the Antarctic continent. At the age of 34, his dream was realized.

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