Why doesn't Odysseus have a growth mindset?

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I have an essay in which I have to prove why Odysseus (from The Odyssey) doesn't have a growth mindset. I'm going to write about the time when his crew ate the cattle of the sun god, and then he blamed the gods for making him go to sleep (an example of not willing to accept failure), but I need a few more. Thank you!

Oct 3rd, 2015

Thank you very much for asking this question! (I'm a Classics student at university, and Homeric epic is one of my main research areas.)

I'd suggest looking more closely at the overall characterisation of Odysseus. Check out the epithets (stock repeating adjectives/phrases used to describe him). In the very first line of book 1, he is described as "πολυτροπος" ("of many devices"), and we often encounter the very similar adjective "πολυμητις" ("of many wiles"). Therefore, we receive the (very consistent) overall impression that Odysseus is very wily: this is one of his most important traits, and the way he negotiates many dangerous situations in the Odyssey (both on his travels and back at home to deal with the suitors).

This in itself might suggest the opposite of a growth mindset: a fixed mindset, with Odysseus constantly using these same basic traits and skillsets to deal with many situations, and never really developing as a character. In fact, does he even experience PERSONAL failure? The situations where he takes control (i.e. ignoring the times when he goes to sleep/his crew disobeys him/etc.) often seem to be successful: there is never any event that suggests that Odysseus' fundamental traits are insufficient to succeed. (Although occasionally he does need a little bit of help from the gods...)

If you want more examples of this - Odysseus using his wily nature (μητις) to succeed - there are many! The Cyclops' cave story (book 9) is one example. His cunning plans to lock away all the suitors' weapons are another.

[Finally, as an extension point: when the text says that "Athene gave Odysseus an idea..." (or words to that effect) - does it mean that Odysseus actually needed the gods to help? Or is it just an elegant, literary way of saying "Odysseus suddenly thought of a plan"? If the latter, it suggests - again - that Odysseus is relying on his basic trait of cunning to prevail.]

I'm always happy to help, so please let me know if you need any more clarification! I hope the Greek characters I've typed work ok...!
Oct 5th, 2015

Hi! Thank you for taking the time to write out a response! In our class, we only used the sections from book 9 of the Odyssey and onward, so I wouldn't be able to use some of the things you suggested. However, your other points were very good; I didn't even realize some of them! Do you think that there are specific actions that give him a fixed mindset, or do you think that based on his OVERALL actions he is considered to have a fixed mindset? I need to point out specific examples or quotes, so specific examples would probably be more helpful. Thank you!

Oct 5th, 2015

Hi! You're very welcome - always happy to help.

I think that both are useful. It's difficult to prove that Odysseus has an overall fixed mindset without referring to his overall characterisation across the Odyssey as a whole - i.e. the points I was suggesting above.

However, specific examples are still definitely important. For example, what about the Sirens in book 12? Odysseus' fundamental traits of cunning and calculation aren't especially appropriate here (why does he have to listen to the Sirens' song? Why can't he just block his ears as they go past, like the rest of his crew?) but he still decides to rely on this trait in this situation.

In fact, almost every situation Odysseus deals with on his travels (i.e. those he describes to the Phaeacians, books 9-12) showcases these same fundamental traits.

Oct 6th, 2015

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