The Odyssey Essay Questions And Answers

1. What is the role of family in the Odyssey? What values characterize the relationship between fathers and sons? You may wish to compare and contrast some of the father and son pairs in the epic (Odysseus and Telemachus, Laertes and Odysseus, Poseidon and Polyphemus, Nestor and Pisistratus, Eupithes and Antinous). How does Homer portray the idea of continuity between generations?

2. What is the role of women in the Odyssey? Focusing especially on Penelope, Calypso, or Anticleia, discuss how women are portrayed in this epic.

3. Compare and contrast Telemachus’s journey with that of Odysseus. How does the younger man’s experience enable him to grow as a character? What role does Athena play in his success?

4. Looking at Odysseus’s narrative in Books 9 through 12, think about the techniques Homer uses to portray the magical and fantastical aspects of Odysseus’s adventures. How does he handle what we might call special effects? That is, how does he make his monsters fearsome, his goddesses stunning, the dangers frightening, etc.?

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Study Questions
1. Why didn’t Odysseus take his bow with him to Troy?

2. What were the two parts of Penelope’s proposed competition?

3. Why are the suitors surprised at Telemachus’ ability to set up the axes?

4. Why does Telemachus assert that he should take part in the competition?

5. What makes him fail?

6. What is Leodes’ lament after he fails to string the bow?

7. How does Antinoös try to simplify the competition after Leodes’ failure?

8. What most perturbs Eurymachus concerning his failure to string the bow?

9. Why is Eumaeus initially unable to bring Odysseus the bow?

10. What does Odysseus do immediately before stringing the bow?

Answers
1. It is a memorial to his friend, Iphitus.

2. The two parts are to string the bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axe handles.

3. He had never before seen them set up in this way.

4. If he succeeds, his mother will be freed of her obligation to marry one of the suitors.

5. Odysseus signals him to fail at the last moment.

6. He longs for death now that he has failed in his courting of Penelope.

7. He commands Melanthius to start a fire to heat the bow and to bring fat to make it limber.

8. Their failure is a sign of Odysseus’ absolute superiority over them.

9. He is daunted by the threats of the suitors.

10. He examines it scrupulously.

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