Imagery In The Odyssey

In Homer's Odyssey, what is an example of imagery from Book 12?


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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Book 12 of Homer's Odyssey, the title character and his crew sail away from Circe's island and continue their efforts to return to Ithaca. As is the case throughout Homer's work, the epic poet uses a number of images to help the audience visualize what he is describing. Circe's vivid description of some of the sheer rock formations Odysseus will see provides one example of imagery (12.77-79):

And no mortal man could climb it or step upon its top,
not even if he had twenty hands and feet,
for the rock is smooth, as though highly polished. (Richmond Lattimore translation)

Circe's image of a human being with 20 hands and feet provides a vivid description of the steepness of these cliffs.

Another example of Homer's vivid language can be found in Circe's description of the Scylla's voice, which she says is "is as loud as a newborn puppy's" (12.86). Thus, Circe's description conjures up in the audience's mind the image of this canine sound.

Finally, as Odysseus and his men approach the island of the Sirens, the wind ceases and the sea becomes calm. Homer, however, provides a lovely image to describe this. He sings that "a divinity lulled the waves to sleep" (12.169). Of course, water cannot literally sleep, but the waters are figuratively asleep.


thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Book 12 of the Odyssey has several examples of vivid imagery. The first example of this comes at the beginning of the book when Circe describes the perils Odysseus and his sailors will encounter on their journey.

The first peril she describes vividly is the Sirens. She mentions that they lure men to their deaths with the beauty of their songs, and evokes the danger of listening to them by describing them as surrounded by a great heap of bones, many still encased in rotting flesh.

Next, she describes Scylla and Charybdis in some detail. She uses vivid description to emphasize the dangers of both monster and whirlpool. She describes Scylla as yelping like a young dog, but actually being huge and terrifying with twelve feet and six necks, and each neck surmounted by a head bearing 3 sets of teeth. The enumeration of these features emphasizes the terrifying nature of the monster. 

Her description finishes on a more positive note with a mention of the herds of the sun god, but that is accompanied by a warning not to touch the flocks on penalty of the wrath of the god.