Homer's Epic, The Odyssey

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Homer is All Mixed Up Homer’s epic, the Odyssey, is a heroic narrative that follows the adventures of Odysseus, the powerful King of Ithaca. The main story involves Odysseus’s return journey to his homeland after the Trojan War. However, Homer skips around in the action periodically to give the reader a better understanding and interest in what is going on in the epic. Homer takes his audience from the present action involving Telemakhos’ search for news of his father’s return, to the past where Odysseus tells the Phaiakians of his tragic journey home after the war. The events in Homer’s epic are not in order but still prove more effective at guiding the reader through the narrative. Although the events in the Odyssey are not in chronological order, the story line is enriched by Homer’s use of the in media res method because it introduces characters that were not involved in Odysseus’ adventure, because it shows the urgency of Odysseus’ return to his kingdom, and because it allows the reader to become more interested in the opening chapters without having to wait for a climax in the action. In media res is Latin for “in the middle of the race” which is a style used by Homer in the Odyssey when he begins the story in the middle of the action. In this way Homer is able to introduce major characters that would otherwise not be included in the narrative until the end of the epic. Three major characters introduced by this method are Telemakhos, Odysseus’ son; Penelope, Odysseus’ wife; and the suitors, prominent young men of Ithaca who attempt to marry Penelope. Telemakhos is the first of these characters to be introduced. In lines 1-14 of book II he is introduced as a prominent young man as he enters the assembly “spear in hand, with two quick hounds at heel; Athena lavished on him a sunlit grace that held the eye of the multitude. Old men made way for him as he took his father’s chair.” Despite Telemakhos’ prominent figure in the opening lines of this book, it soon becomes obvious that he is not an extremely powerful figure. Telemakhos intends to expel the suitors from his home but he is not strong enough to fight them. It is important that the reader meets Telemakhos in the beginning because he is the main character in the Ithaca plot and also he must overcome obstacles at home foreshadowing the obstacles his father faces later in the epic.
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