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