In the first three books of Homer's Odyssey, are there any examples of parallelism?

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This kind of question is somewhat tricky when you consider that most modern audiences would be dealing with the Odyssey in some form of translation (which automatically entails at least some degree of alteration on the translator's part). However, at the same time, you must remember that the Odyssey was originally an oral poem, passed down through memorization and meant for recitation (and these origins are reflected in the text as it has come down to us).

Parallelism refers to a specific kind of rhetorical structure, and it can certainly be observed within the Odyssey's first three books. It can even be found in the Odyssey's opening line, in the invocation to the muses (note that, for this answer, I am using the Robert Fagles translation, published by Penguins Classics in 1996):

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns

This statement that opens the Odyssey is itself an example of parallel structure, where two separate clauses have been balanced against one another. In the very next paragraph, there is a second example of this same grammatical structure:

Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds, many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea

Note here the use of repetition. In the first example, the parallelism hinges on the repetition of the word "man" while in the second it hinges upon repetition of the word "many." Note also that both of these examples are taken from the very first paragraphs that open the poem. From this fact alone, we should expect to find examples of parallelism throughout the poem.

In book 2, we find parallelism in Antinous's response against Telemachus and in his complaint against Penelope, which culminates in the following statement:

Great renown she wins for herself, no doubt,
great loss for you in treasure. (transl. Fagles)

In this case, the "great renown" Penelope has garnered for herself is rhetorically balanced against the "great loss" her actions have imposed upon her son.

When reading through these first few books, I would suggest continuing to look for additional examples which reflect a similar structure.

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Parallelism is a type of literary device in which two or more clauses or sentences that are next to each other have the same grammatical structure.The use of parallelism creates a kind of rhythm and a natural cadence. Homer's Odyssey was originally an oral poem, and the use of parallelism is part of its oral nature. People listening to the poem better retain its meaning and words when clauses that are next to each other follow the same structure.

Examples of parallelism in these books vary. One example in book 1 is as follows: "the bewitching nymph, the lustrous goddess." These two clauses describe Calypso, and they follow the same form: the article "the," followed by an adjective, followed by a one-word noun. The appearance of these two clauses creates a kind of rhythm, and the repetition of adjectives that describe Calypso emphasize her beguiling and enticing nature and her existence as both a nymph and a goddess.

In book 2, Antinous, one of the suitors, describes Penelope's actions in the following way: "building each man’s hopes—dangling promises, dropping hints to each." Each of these clauses starts with a participle and is followed by an object. The use of parallelism in this case emphasizes the way in which Antinous characterizes Penelope as cunning and deceitful. The repetition involved in parallelism allows the speaker to emphasize certain points.

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First, you'll need to answer the question, "What is parallel to what?" Is what happens to Telemachus parallel to what happens to Odysseus? Is what happens to Agamemnon when he returned from the Trojan War parallel to what will happen to Odysseus when he returns from the Trojan War? Is what happened to Nestor or Menelaus on their respective returns from Troy parallel to what will happen to Odysseus on his return from Troy?

Yes, several parallels in the first three books do exist, but you'll need to ask yourself these sorts of questions to arrive at the answer. Like Odysseus, Agamemnon left a wife and son at home when he went off to war; unlike Odysseus, though, Agamemnon's wife was not faithful when tempted by another man.

But when the gods at last destined that Agamemnon should be destroyed, Aegisthus took the minstrel to a desert isle, and left him there as a gift for the birds of prey: and as he wished, and she wished, led her to his own house. (Odyssey 3; A.S. Kline translation)

When Agamemnon returned home, Aegisthus killed him; but Aegisthus was in turn killed by Agamemnon's son Orestes. Will Telemachus become a second Orestes and kill the suitors who tempt his mother? In Odyssey 1, Athene encourages Telemachus to become like Orestes:

...use heart and mind to plan how to kill the Suitors in your palace, openly or by guile: since it is not right for you to follow childish ways, being no more a child. Perhaps you have not heard what fame Orestes won among men, destroying his father’s murderer, cunning Aegisthus, for killing his noble father?

So, we find lots of parallels in the first three books of the Odyssey. Comparing Odysseus, Penelope, Telemachus, and the suitors with Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Orestes, and Aegisthus should bring out some striking similarities and differences.

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