In the world, from time memorial, heroes have always had and will always have certain traits that earn them the status of hero or legend. With this in mind, the myth about Odysseus has had a tremendous and uncanny resemblance and influence in some of the living and dead heroes to have graced the face of the earth. This is not only evident in myth, but also in real life. One such hero Martin Luther King Junior. In this paper, I will seek to critically compare the characteristic traits between Odysseus and Martin Luther King Jr. and what made them so alike and/or different in many ways.
Odysseus, the King of Ithaca, was one of the few heroes in Greek myth that was a result of a union between pure mortals (McCaughrean). He was a true representation of humanity and mortality. This was not the only difference between Odysseus and other heroes, he earned his status not by force of arms, but through cunning. Odysseus was a clever man, capable of ingenuity in his thoughts and his approach to problems. This gave him the unique characteristic and ability to generate solutions through trickery. This is evident in his input in coming up with the Trojan horse which played a vital role in ending the Trojan War. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was also a man who gained status and influence through his ability to use thought and words rather than force (King and Clayborne). Amid the fight for human rights and against racism, he used his intellect and unrivalled articulate speeches to cause change. Through his words, he influenced many without having to use violence or force to fight racism.
The way Homeric tales on Odysseus accentuate on Odysseus’ life of suffering. He was a carpenter who longed to return to his home (McCaughrean). His heart ached for the sight of his home and his wife and so he goes through a long journey to obtain this lifelong dream. This journey is plagued by disasters and troubles, but he finally achieves his goal. This is many ways in similar to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. himself. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. longed for the day when all human beings will stand equal, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background. His started a long journey that saw him go through ridicule and even imprisonment(King and Clayborne). He fought with each passing day even under the constant death threats to himself and his family. Even though he finally paid with his life, in the end, all the pain and suffering paid off as his death served as a catalyst to the fight for human rights and eventual end of racism. There was however one difference in these two characters.
In the end, once Odysseus gets back home, he is forced to finally resort to violence to fight for what he wants and cherishes(McCaughrean). He kills all the suitors to his wife who sought after taking over his throne. He even later kills all the suitors’ relative who came after him for revenge. In this way Odysseus loses his true self by resorting to violence and even murder. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. never resorted to violence at any time to obtain equality for all races in the United States (King and Clayborne). He ultimately had to pay with his own life for his dream and desire to see the day of light.
In conclusion, both Odysseus and Dr Martin Luther King Jr. resemble humanity and mortality. They both had dreams and desires and chose similar paths to achieve those dreams and desires. Even though at the end they took different final steps to these dreams, they depict true leadership in their ways and actions. Leadership is shown by those brave enough to know when to fight and when not to.
King, Martin L and Carson Clayborne. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Intellectual Properties Management in association with Warner Books, 1998. Print.
McCaughrean, Geraldine. Odysseus. Chicago: Cricket Books, 2004. Print.