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Odyssey Literary Analysis

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The Author and his Times

The author of the Odyssey, to this day, remains unknown. Early Greeks have accredited works such as the "Homeric Hyms", The Iliad, and The Odyssey to an individual by the name of Homer. However, there are some scientists that insist these said works were product of a group of people and not one man. This particular group of scientists claims that the subject matter of the writings is too diverse for them to have been the product of just one person. Despite these differing opinions the general consensus is still that Homer is the author.

By analyzing the dialects used in the above works, Ionic and Aeolic, experts have derived that Homer's origin is some where in the western part of Asia Minor. He could possibly have been from the island of Chios, where a family by the name of Homer currently resides, some of whom may be his descendants.

Homer is said to have been a poet or bard. He would travel across Greece and orally recite his tales of heroes and gods. The story telling method of the time gave room for different influences to affect tales as they were passed on from person to person. The Odyssey was no exception, however; the majority of the story was created by one person, Homer. The Odyssey was transferred from oral delivery to paper in 700 BC after its predecessor The Iliad.

Though little is known of Homer, it is safe to say that he was heavily influenced by the Greek gods of the time. He incorporates them into The Odyssey very deeply and treats them, in the story, as they would be treated in real life. (Cliffs Notes)

Main Characters

The characters in The Odyssey are very colorful. Each character has a trait that is obvious through their actions, but, at the same time, each embodies more than just that characteristic. This mixture of attributes gives Homer's characters a realistic quality and makes the story far more enjoyable.

Odysseus- Odysseus is a middle aged man and experienced warrior. He is marked by his admirable strength of intellect as well as body. Odysseus is extremely clever and confident to the point of being almost conceited. The name Odysseus means "the Son of Pain". This name was given to Odysseus by his grand father and is explained in the quote:

"just as I

have come from afar, creating pain for many--

men and women across the good green earth--

so let his name be Odysseus . . ." (Book 19 460-464)

Poseidon- Poseidon is the god of the sea. He is a vengeful god that is angry with Odysseus for blinding the Cyclops Polyphemos, his son. Poseidon can control the sea, and with this power hampers Odysseus' journey home. This opposition of Odysseus, the protagonist; is what makes Poseidon the antagonist of the story. Some irony surrounds Poseidon in that he is the patron of the Phaeacians, who help Odysseus return to Ithaca.

The Suitors- The Suitors number in the dozens and are the men trying to woo Penelope in Odysseus' absence. Among these suitors are Antinous, Eurymachus, and Amphinomus. Antinous is extremely arrogant and is void of any sympathy. He plots to kill Telemachus in order to leave Penelope alone and vulnerable, and is the first to be killed upon the return of Odysseus. Eurymachus is deceitful and manipulative. He is adept at gaining favor, which he shows by gaining support among the suitors. Eurymachus, like Antinous; is killed when Odysseus returns. Amphinomus is the only decent suitor among the lot. He shows sympathy and support for Telemachus and Odysseus. Despite his decency he, too, is killed in the slaughter at the end of the story. Throughout the epic the suitors are an annoyance and burden for Penelope and Telemachus. They plague Odysseus's house and harass Penelope relentlessly. The suitors are in competition with Odysseus for the hand of Penelope. This conflict makes the suitors the second antagonist of the story.

Telemachus- Telemachus is the son of Odysseus. He is about 20 years of age at the beginning of the story, and lives with his mother Penelope in Ithaca. His house is plagued with the suitors and it takes all of his being to keep his cool and act respectfully towards them. Telemachus is good-hearted and courageous, but lacks confidence, especially when confronting the suitors. He functions as an obstacle for the suitors and is plotted against by many of them.

Minor Characters

Penelope- Penelope is the devoted loving wife of Odysseus. She remains loyal to Odysseus for the entirety of the story despite the countless suitors that bother her every day. She is a strong woman and a loving wife and mother. Her role in the story is as an incentive for Odysseus. She is the main reason that Odysseus wishes to return to Ithaca.

Athena- Athena is a goddess daughter of Zeus. Her anger at the desecration of one of her temples by a Greek warrior from Troy is the reason that Odysseus was sent wandering for ten years. Ironically, Athena aids Odysseus throughout his journey. She takes the form of humans in order to help Odysseus, one of which is the family friend Mentor. She also disguises Odysseus as a beggar in order for him to gather important information about the suitors. Though Athena is known for aiding Odysseus, she does intervene to such a point as to eliminate human choice. She tips the scales, but makes sure to leave the outcome dependent

upon humans.

Setting

Ithaca - Ithaca is Odysseus' home town that he hasn't been to in ten years. His wife Penelope, faithfully awaits his return.

Troy - Troy is only visited in Odysseus' memories as he narrates the what happened during the war.

Cyclops' island- The island where Odysseus and his crew are trapped in the Cyclops' lair.

Plot outline

The Odyssey is organized into books. There are twenty-four books in this epic, each containing poetic verse. These books are further broken down, in regards to content, into groups of four. The first four books are occupied with the adventures of Telemachos. Books five through

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