Odyssey book report - detailed analysis, book summary, literary elements, character analysis, Homer biography, and everything necessary for active class participation.
Odyssey and Iliad are thought to be written by the Greek author Homer, and it's unsure if he had written them because there aren't many details about his life. His very existence continues to be questioned as does the original author of Odyssey. There are even some who believe that Homer only wrote Iliad. If we assume that both of the works were written by him, then we would conclude he wrote Odyssey when he was older because his style had changed.
The work is divided into 24 books and 12,110 hexameters. The plot begins with the downfall of Troy. Odysseus, one of the warriors from the Trojan War, is trying to get back to his country and he is the center of the plot.
In the beginning, we learn about his past and destiny from other characters' stories. We also meet his son who is headed off to find more information about his father. When the plot switches entirely to Odysseus, we are already introduced to all important major events. In a few books, he tells everything he saw in the last couple of years. In the second part of the work, he finally comes back to his country and comes up with revenge against the suitors so he could get back what's his.
The plot begins in media res with an invocation of the muse and critical information about some characters thus forming the plot. The narrator is the author except for a few books in which Odysseus states his adventures and experiences. The plot is set in a time where Gods walked amongst people and talked to them. Goddess Athena had a major role because she spoke with a lot of characters including Odysseus and Telemachus. Often disguised, she gave out advice and helped them reach their goals.
Odysseus was a common man even though his appearance and strength made him God-like. He had many virtues, some of which were wisdom, high intelligence, resilience, and just like every ordinary man he sometimes gave in to temptation and chose the wrong path.
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Genre: an epic poem
Setting: Ithaca and the islands Odysseus visited during his journey after the Trojan War
Point of view: third-person
Tone: excited, joyful, mournful
Mood: somber, pessimistic
Theme: the story of the Greek king Odysseus who wanders for ten years trying to get home after the Trojan War
The plot begins with an invocation of the muse to help Homer write the story of Odysseus, and he starts in media res, mentioning everything takes place 20 years before Odysseus left for the war and ten years after Troy's downfall when all the heroes, except for Odysseus came back. Odysseus spent eight years in captivity by the goddess Calypso who wanted him to marry her. Poseidon didn't say anything on the matter as Odysseus made his son (Polyphemus) go blind.
Athena went to Ithaca to talk to Telemachus, Odysseus' son, during which she took the form of Odysseus' friend. Telemachus didn't remember his father because he was born after his father went to war. He was a young man now, and he stopped hoping for his father to come back. Many suitors were at Odysseus' house hoping to get his wife Penelope's hand and rule instead of Odysseus. Athena told him his father was alive and that he will come back soon.
Athena advises Telemachus to get rid of the suitors and then to go and ask around about his father. Telemachus told all of the suitors about his decision. When they asked him who the stranger was, he responded it was his father's acquaintance, but he thought it was one of the Gods.
The next day at an assembly Telemachus complained about the suitor throwing feasts in his home instead of going to Penelope's father and asking for her hand in marriage, and once and for all, knowing who will be the lucky one to marry her and rule the land. Antinous tells him it's Penelope's fault because she promised to get married when she finishes the weaving for Laertes. She would weave during the day, and during the night she would destroy everything, and then again in the morning, she would start all over again to keep the suitors waiting.
Telemachus defended his mother and asked the assembly to give him a boat so he could go to Sparta and search for information about his father. Athena pays Telemachus another visit but this time she was in a different disguise. She provided much-needed encouragement before his trip. After leaving him, she disguised as him and asked the people around town if they wanted to go on his journey.
Telemachus arrives in Pylos where he asks Nestor about his father. After the war, Nestor and Odysseus went their separate ways, so Nestor wasn't helpful. Telemachus came to Sparta where Menelaus and Helena celebrated their children's weddings. They accepted Telemachus and Nestor's son, and later on, they realized Telemachus was Odysseus' son.
They tell stories about Odysseus and amongst them, they tell everything about the Trojan horse. Menelaus says he found out Odysseus was held captive on Calypso's island. In the meantime, the suitors were coming up with a plan to kill Telemachus when he comes back. Penelope heard about it and she was devastated. Athena sent her a vision of her sister in her dreams to make her sure her son was safe and sound.
The Gods were discussed and encouraged by Athena. Zeus decided it was time to bring Odysseus back home. They sent a messenger to Calypso's island to tell her she needs to let Odysseus go. It was hard for her to make peace with it but she bowed down to Zeus's wishes. Odysseus built a boat and went on his new adventure. On the eighteenth day of sailing, Poseidon saw him and got so furious that he made a storm just to sink his boat. With Athena's help, Odysseus came to shore and spent the night in the forest.
The next day he woke up next to a river where he met Nausicaa and the other women who were washing laundry. They gave him some privacy so he could wash. Athena made him prettier so that Nausicaa would fall in love with him. Nausicaa was King Alcinous and Queen Arete's daughter. She helped him and invited him to stay in her castle. Nausicaa gave him some instructions on how to get to the castle and how to treat her parents.
On his way to the castle, Odysseus saw Athena. She wrapped him up in fog so that citizens wouldn't recognize nor bother him. She told him to talk to the queen because she will help him get back home and he does so. He told them everything about being held captive by Calypso, getting his boat destroyed by Poseidon, meeting their daughter who helped and gave him clothes and in the end, he told them he was Odysseus. The king and queen decided to help him.
He told them that after leaving Troy, their ship ended up on the shores of Ismarus where his men took the treasure and the women. They were there until the Cicones didn't call for backup and attacked. Odysseus and his men barely made it out alive, and he lost at least six people from each ship. They've wandered the sea for nine days because they got lost due to the storm. In the end, they came to another island where his men got obsessed with eating Lotus, and the only way he could save them from staying there forever was to drag them back to the ship.
They came to the Cyclops' land where they met Poseidon's son Polyphemus, and he ate one member of Odysseus' crew for each meal. They were held captive, and Odysseus decided to get his revenge and run away with the rest of his men. He found his weapon and after getting Polyphemus drunk they stabbed him in the eye and ran away. Polyphemus ended up blind and because of that Poseidon hated Odysseus.
When Odysseus and his crew boarded the ship, he revealed his true identity to Polyphemus who said he knew about the prophecy of him being blinded by Odysseus, but he also says that he is the son of Poseidon and that he will get his revenge. Polyphemus called his father and asked him not to allow Odysseus to enter his country.
Afterward, Odysseus and his crew stayed at Aeolus, the ruler of the wind. He gave Odysseus a bag of winds which will help him get back home. His crew thought he received gold and they got so jealous they opened the bag and let all the winds go when they were already close to their country. The winds brought them back to Aeolus who didn't want to help them anymore. They sailed to the land of Laestrygonians whose population were all cannibals. The cannibals sank eleven boats and only Odysseus saved himself on the last one.
His ship came to the island of goddess Circe. There the goddess turned half of his crew into swine. Hermes, a messenger, came to tell Odysseus to take a herb called moly to be resistant to Circe's magic and to save his men. He tricked her and made her transform back to his crew.
After a year spent on that island, Odysseus asks her to let them go. She sent them to the Land of the Dead where Odysseus talked to Tiresias, a prophet. He told him that Poseidon was taking his revenge for making his son blind and that he will get back home as long as he doesn't touch the herds on God Helios's island. If he does it then he will come back home to see suitors wasting his fortune away. He will kill them and death will reach him when he gets older.
Odysseus came back to Circe, and she explained to him how to get home and the troubles he will have to face. When he arrived on the island of the mermaids, he made his crew put wax in their ears in order not to hear the sirens sing and to tie Odysseus up.
Odysseus could hear the mermaids singing about his heroic conquests in Troy but he was tied up so they passed them. Their last stop was Helios's island. They ate the food on the ship, but once they were out, one of the crew members suggested they slaughter and eat Helios's head. Odysseus was against it but they still did it while he was sleeping. Zeus punished them with an awful storm, and the only survivor was Odysseus who then ended up on Calypso's island.
Odysseus ended his story and the next day he was headed home. Poseidon was furious because someone helped his enemy so, with Zeus's permission, he sank their ship.
Odysseus encountered Athena again. This time she was disguised as a shepherd. She revealed her true identity and told him it would be better if he keeps his secret because he has to get back at the suitors. Athena lets him know that Telemachus was looking for information about him and she helps him disguise himself as a beggar. Odysseus hid in a shepherd Euameus's house.
Euameus accepted him into his home, but he didn't recognize him because he thought Odysseus was dead. The disguised Odysseus says he's still alive and that he will come back. Athena came to Telemachus's dream and told him to get home but warned him about the suitors setting a trap for him. Athena told him to go to Euameus's house first. When he got there, he saw the shepherd talking to a stranger. The shepherd went to tell Penelope
Telemachus is back and Odysseus, as ordered by Athena, revealed his true identity to Telemachus. The two of them start coming up with a plan to get back at the suitors. Odysseus will come disguised as a beggar so that they would be surprised. Telemachus returned to the castle but he didn't say anything about Odysseus being back. When Odysseus appeared dressed poorly, the other suitors made fun of him and hit him.
Penelope asks him who he is and tells him all about her husband for whom he longed. She also told him all about her little weaving fraud that lasted until her maids told her and now she was forced to pick a new husband. She tested the beggar because he claimed to have known Odysseus and he described him in detail. He told her not to lose hope because he was sure Odysseus was coming back.
Penelope orders the maid Eurycleia to wash his feet, and she recognizes him by a scar on his leg. She promised to keep his secret. Penelope told Odysseus all about her dream about an eagle killing ducks and then Odysseus tells her that he is the husband and the eagle, which came to kill the suitors who were the ducks. Penelope told the suitors that the one who manages to shoot a bow through a dozen ax heads would have her hand in marriage. None of the suitors managed to do it. Odysseus was excellent at it and then in front of everyone, he reveals his true identity and kills the suitors with Athena's help.
Penelope, who wasn't present at the competition, decided to test if the man who won was her husband. She told him his bed was moved, but he replied that it was impossible because he made his bed out of a stump and the rest of the house was built around it. Penelope was finally sure her husband was back.
Odysseus visited his father who got old because he grieved for his son, and he didn't recognize Odysseus at first. Later Odysseus told him all about his journeys and revenge. The suitors' parents wanted to avenge their son's death, but Athena stops them and establishes peace in Ithaca
Characters: Odysseus, Telemachus, Penelope, Athena, Poseidon, Zeus, Euameus, Eurycleia, Calypso, Polyphemus, Circe, Nestor, Menelaus, Helena, Nausicaa, Alcinous, Arete.
Odysseus - a character of many virtues - loyalty, courage, resilience, confidence, persistence, strength, and intelligence. Which helps him deal with many situations and dangers on his way back home. His intelligence and resourcefulness helped him outsmart Polyphemus.
During his adventures, the only thing that kept him going is knowing he's going home. Sometimes he needs to be powerful, and famous so he was tempted a lot. After individual adventures and events, he starts hiding his identity and becomes more careful. In the beginning, after running away from Cyclops, he couldn't resist being famous, so he revealed his identity to Polyphemus and because of it Poseidon does everything in his power to stop him from coming back home. When he came to Ithaca, he hid his identity to get rid of the suitors. After killing all of them he revealed his identity and finally peace came to Ithaca.
Telemachus - Odysseus' son, and in the beginning, he didn't even hope that his father would ever return from the war. When he was twenty Athena talked to him, and he decided to find his father, convinced he was still alive. In the first book, we follow up with his search for information about his father. Apart from wanting to find his father he also wanted to get rid of the suitors around his mother who were spending his father's fortune. In the end, he met his father, and they came up with a plan to kill the suitors. Telemachus shows some virtues he inherited from his father, such as decisiveness and courage but he still wasn't as famous in his quests as his father.
Penelope - the symbol of faithfulness. She waited for her husband all those years and even came up with a tricky way to keep suitors away from her. She said she would pick her future husband when she finishes her weaving but she would weave during the day and ruin everything during the night. When the suitors found out about it, they forced her to pick one of them, and she had no choice. In the end, she made a competition which she knew no one would win because her husband was the only one capable of doing what she demanded. When Odysseus came back, she wasn't sure if it was him, so she asked him about something only the two of them knew and when he answered correctly Penelope was sure her husband was back.
Athena - Zeus's daughter and the goddess of wisdom and war which helped the main characters get justice and helped Odysseus come back home. She would often appear disguised without revealing her identity. In the beginning, she encouraged Telemachus to look for his father, and she helped Odysseus get out of many troubles. Athena also helped Penelope by appearing in her dreams.
Homer lived somewhere between 900 and 700 B.C. He is the oldest known Greek author who was from Anatolia.
Besides Iliad and Odyssey, it is thought he had written many other epics about gods and the parody "Batrachomyomachia" or "Battle of the Frogs and Mice".
His job was unknown, and so was the place where he lived. We can only conclude about his whereabouts from some verses which state seven cities. After his death, a whole community dedicated to narrating his verses appeared in Anatolia, and they called themselves Homeridae.
He was described as a blind poet who traveled from one place to another reciting his poems, but not even that information can be perceived as true.