How do the cyclopes lives differ from those of civilized people in "The Odyssey"? From the story "The Odyssey"

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Book 9 Odysseus describes the cyclopes' lifestyle: they live in individual caves, plant no crops, have no meeting-place for council or laws, and have no ships to sail and trade with other men. Despite the beauty and fertility of their island, the cyclopes lead primitive lives without any semblance of organized society. Oddly enough, despite the cyclopes' disregard for the gods, their needs seem to be met without their having to work for food because their island is a lush paradise.

Polyphemus declares, furthermore, that he has no fear of or respect for Zeus, and he does not follow the Greek custom of gift-giving to guests. To say he is not hospitable to his guests is an understatement, considering that he eats six of the men of Odysseus, who calls him a "giant, lawless brute" and a "shameless cannibal."

When Polyphemus is blinded by Odysseus and in agony calls out for help, his fellow cyclopes gather outside his cave to ask what is the trouble. At least they are willing to come to his aid, but when he tells them that "Nobody's killing me by fraud and not by force," they advise him to pray to his father Poseidon, and they leave instead of removing the huge boulder that blocks the opening to his cave to see for themselves what has happened to Polyphemus. So much for their concern.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial