CL106/EN106 Week 6:

 

Homer, Odyssey books 19, 21, 22, 23, 24:

map

note: read summaries of books 18 and 20 (scroll down for book summaries)

 

1. Odysseus' homecoming:

a. In terms of the Odyssey as a whole, what does the tale of Odysseus' homecoming told in the books read for today's class have to do with the very different tale of Odysseus' wanderings earlier in the poem?

 

2. Eurykleia:

a. From Homer's perspective as the teller of this tale, what is the function of the incident of Eurykleia and the scar? What does it contribute to the Odyssey as a whole, or at least to this part of the poem? Why did Homer include it?

 

3. Penelope:

a. What is Penelope like, as we see her in book 19?

b. Does Penelope's character develop or change over the course of the books read for today's class?

c. Why, from Odysseus' perspective as a character in the poem, does he initially conceal his identity from Penelope?

d. Why, from Homer's perspective as the teller of this tale, does he have Odysseus initially conceal his identity from Penelope?

e. Why, from Penelope's perspective as a character in the poem, does she not immediately accept that Odysseus really is who he says he is when he reveals his identity?

f. Why, from Homer's perspective as the teller of this tale, does he have Penelope not immediately accept that Odysseus really is who he says he is when he reveals his identity?

g. What three adjectives would you use to describe the reunion of Odysseus and Penelope? Why do you think these three adjectives are a good way to describe their reunion?

 

4. More on mechanics:

a. Time seems to slow down as we move through the episode of the bow-contest, almost to a standstill by the time we reach the end of the book. What is there in the narrative that contributes to this impression?

 

5. The battle in the great hall:

a. Compare/contrast the great battle in Odysseus' palace with the battles in the Iliad.

b. In terms of the Odyssey as a whole, is this battle really necessary? Why or why not?

c. How do you personally react to the killing of the maidservants and Melanthios? How do you imagine Homer expected his listeners to react? If there is a difference in the two, how would you account for it?

 

6. Ending the poem:

a. Is book 24 necessary to make the Odyssey feel "complete"? Or could the poem have ended earlier? If it could have, where?

b. How is the conversation between Agamemnon and Achilleus relevant to the Odyssey as a whole? Or is it irrelevant? And if it is irrelevant, what is it doing here?

c. What will become of Odysseus now? Is this a "happy ending" for the hero or a "sad" one? Why?

 

7. Final thoughts:

a. Some people have quite seriously suggested that the Odyssey was written by a woman. What do you see in the Odyssey that would lead one to make such a suggestion?

b. Which did you like better, the Iliad or the Odyssey? Why?