How can quotations support a structured analysis of a character in The Odyssey?

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When you're analyzing a character, you end up having to use your own words to summarize and explain a lot about who this character is, what traits he or she has, how he or she changes, and so on.

Quotations help you prove that what you're saying is right. In other words, quotations help you point to the text and basically say "See this part right here? That's how I know for certain that I've interpreted this character correctly." The quotations you pick, then, can make your analysis clear, authoritative, and thorough.

To find good quotations to help you support your character analysis, you don't simply have to look for things the character says. You can also look for things the character does, things the character thinks, and things other people (including the narrator) say about the character.

Let's say you plan to write about Odysseus and want to structure your writing in one of these ways:

  • A discussion of his character traits, from least to most important
  • A discussion of his character traits, from least to most admirable
  • A discussion of how he responds to adversity, from the easiest situation to the hardest
  • A discussion of how he changes from the beginning to the end of the epic

Of course, those are just suggestions — there are many other ways you can structure your analysis.

Regardless, your analysis will probably be organized in paragraphs: say, one per trait, or one per adverse situation. If you're organizing your analysis based on how Odysseus changes, you might spend one paragraph on each major section of the story, such as the beginning, middle, and end.

If you can find one or more clear supporting quotations from the text to include in each of your paragraphs, they will help convince your reader that you based your analysis on a close, careful reading of the text.

Although you can get ideas for character traits to write about from an existing analysis of a character here on eNotes, like this one for Odysseus or the other major characters from The Odyssey, or from other questions and discussions about a character, like this one, this one, and this one, you might enjoy yourself more (and write a more original, interesting analysis) if you start with the text itself. When you were reading it, what qualities of the character struck you as particularly interesting or surprising? As you read (or reread, or skim), highlight or copy and paste the quotations from the story that relate to your character and seem fascinating to you. These may be useful when you write your character analysis.

When it's time to add your quotations to your paragraphs, try using a variety of different ways to integrate the quoted content into your own:

  • Open a paragraph with a quotation, then discuss the trait it reveals about your character.
  • Discuss a character trait, adding a brief quotation to illustrate what you mean, then discuss what that quotation reveals, exactly, about your character.
  • Let some of your quotations stand by themselves in their own sentences, but try to include others within your sentences.
  • Discuss a character trait, then end the paragraph with a particularly dramatic quotation illustrating that trait.
  • Stack multiple, super-short quotations into a list. Example: "When Odysseus calls himself a 'sacker of cities,' a man with an 'ardent spirit' that can't be 'daunted,' he reveals his vanity."

Many students find it difficult to integrate quotes into their own sentences. Here are some sentence templates that can help:

  • A character has a certain trait: "a quotation that shows it." (Example: "Odysseus is boastful: 'Cyclops, if any man asks how you came by your blindness, say that Odysseus, sacker of cities, Laertes' son, a native of Ithaca, maimed you.'")
  • A character's trait, described by another character as "this," affects the story or the reader in a certain way.
  • A character’s trait, evinced by his or her “certain action” and his or her “certain other action,” affects the story or the reader in a certain way.
  • When a character thinks "a particular thought," he or she reveals a certain trait.
  • A character reveals his trait when he or she "says or thinks something in particular."
  • When a character claims/admits "this particular thing," it's clear he or she has a certain trait.
  • "This particular thing," in the character's own words, illustrates a certain trait. 
  • The narrator's description of "his or her particular thing" illustrates a certain trait.
  • It’s clear that a character who “does or says this thing” must be a certain trait.
  • Faced with "a particular threat or situation," the character reacts in a certain way, "doing something," revealing his or her trait.
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