Heroism, vigilantism, and social norms reconsidered via Odysseus and Batman
This thesis explores the impact the mythical heroes of Odysseus and Batman had upon the societies of their audiences by being used as vehicles to deliver social commentary. This work stems from the desire to understand why heroism has been a recurring motif in Ancient Greek and contemporary American mythology. By analyzing the deployment of Odysseus and Batman in literature, a deeper understanding of the Ancient Athenian and contemporary American psyche can be gained. Chapter 1 explores the qualities that set Odysseus apart from other Homeric heroes and whether his unorthodox methods allow for him to be classified as a hero at all. Chapter 2 focuses on Sophocles’ usage of Odysseus to highlight one prominent social issue of Athens in the 5th century: the rising power of rhetoric. Chapter 3 illuminates the power vested in Batman as a symbol for justice by examining the relationships between Batman and Gotham’s institutions, citizens, and villains. Chapter 4 delves into Christopher Nolan’s molding of Batman into a hero befitting of an America grappling with complex debates about security and freedom in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The case studies of Odysseus and Batman offer a glimpse into the minds of Ancient Athenians and modern Americans, allowing us to gain a deeper understanding of the role heroes played in helping members of both societies understand and process the world. This thesis adds to comparative studies of mythology across cultures and sparks further inquiries into the extent that mythology may have shaped and influenced society as a result of their usage to understand the world.