Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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What relationships of relevant events move you as a student?

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For me, the events that are most meaningful are the one in which we see the power of the gods/goddesses at work.For example, in Book 9, we are able to hear the pleading words of Polyphemus as he speaks to Poseidon.Polyphemus prays to Poseidon and asks him to intervene, that if Odysseus returns to his home, ever, let it be a long, hard journey where all but Odysseus die and he is a stranger to his own home. As the story continues, we see all of Polyphemus’ requests come true, and by Book 21, Odysseus has returned to his homeland by himself as a stranger.


We are also able to see the gods/goddesses work in Odysseus’ favor as Athena answers his prayers. She intervenes as he is fighting all of the suitors who have taken over his house.She aids in his quest to return to his wife, Penelope.These are just a couple of examples where we, as the readers, are able to see the visible hand of the gods/goddesses at play.

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You might give some thought to Penelope.  Traditionally, many readers considered her the true and loyal wife, patiently waiting for her husband’s return, the dutiful daughter-in-law whose weaving and unweaving of the father-in-law’s shroud protects her husband’s honor.  In these ways, Penelope is just the opposite of Helen:  Penelope the good woman and Helen the bad.

However, another way to think about Penelope is as a trickster, a fabric/ator.  Her loom is a scene of constant motion, .a site of production rather than of passive waiting.  In this way she is a figure of agency, active in controlling her own life as well as in producing a piece of art.  The critic Nancy Felsin-Rubin points out, too, that Penelope is “wily,” which “is more than [the suitors] can handle.  They are her inferiors and . . .inevitably become her victims.  They perish through their moral blindness” and the moral superiority of Penelope.

Recent feminist critics, writing about the tradition of women’s writing, have found in Penelope a symbol of the way in which women writers historically have had to conceal what they wanted to reveal because of the patriarchal dominance of men in the field of literature.  She talks about this in //Penelope’s Web:  Gender, Modernity, H. D.’s Fiction//

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Well, I can't say what moves you personally, but for me, there are a few events I believe are particularly compelling.  These events make the Odyssey both and exciting read and contain some universal truisms that make it relevant reading today.

On my list are the events that lead to Odysseus being washed up on the shores of Scheria (Book 5).  Here he is being tested and his intelligence shines brightly.

In Book 16,  Telemachus Athena reveals Odyseuss to Telemachus and the two devise a plan to get rid of the suitors. This scene is both touching, as father and son are reunited, and exciting as the injustice in Odysseus' home and the just ousting of the vile suitors soon follows. 

Penelope has a terrific scene in Books 20-23 when she devises the bow competition.  In her own way, as she has proven during her relentless embroidery, Penelope too is intelligent and her loyalty is amazing.  The revelation here of Odysseus' true identity is joyful for them both. 

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