The Odyssey

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The Odyssey

Set in ancient Greece, The Odyssey is about the hero Odysseus' long-awaited

return from the Trojan War to his homeland, Ithaca, after ten years of

wandering. The current action of The Odyssey occupies the last six weeks of

the ten years, and the narrative includes many places - Olympus, Ithaca, Pylos,

Pherae, Sparta, Ogygia, and Scheria. In Books 9-12, Odysseus narrates the

story of his travels in the years after the fall of Troy, and this narrative

includes other far-flung places, such as the island of the Cyclops. The main

action of the poem takes place in Ithaca, after a disguised Odysseus reaches

there in Book 13. In Books 13 to 24, Odysseus is slowly reunited with his

family and takes revenge on the suitors that have been wooing his wife and

wasting his property.

CHARACTERS

Major

Odysseus - the protagonist and hero of the poem. Odysseus is the King of

Ithaca, a small, rugged island on the western coast of Greece. He takes part in

the Trojan War on the side of Agamemnon. Of all the heroes who return from

the war, his homeward voyage is the longest and most perilous. Although

Odysseus is in many ways a typical Homeric hero, he is not perfect, and his

very human flaws play an important role in the work.

Penelope - the "much-enduring" wife of Odysseus and the patient mother of

Telemachus. If travel is Odysseus' test, staying home is Penelope's. She keeps

home and family intact until Odysseus can return to claim his rights. The

suffering she undergoes and the tricks that she employs to keep her suitors at

bay bear testimony to her power of endurance and love for her son and

husband.

Telemachus - Odysseus' son. A mere child when his father left for the Tr...

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...us tells how Helen walked around the

wooden horse at Troy and addressed the Achaean leaders by imitating the

voices of their wives. The reader can believe this of Helen, but the event is

told of so simply that the reader does not realize immediately how

illuminating it is. Another small touch, tragic, but deeply touching, is that of

the dog Argus, who recognizes Odysseus after twenty years and then dies.

Although he has suffered, his death is the appropriate end at the right time. In

such cases, a detail adds something highly individual and yet illuminating.

Such details are more effective when they strengthen some display of emotion

or affection. They are as necessary to the heroic outlook as any kind of

physical prowess, for they provide the hero with a solid background and bind

his friends to him.

Bibliography:

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