What are some examples of figurative language in the Odyssey?  

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obrienk4 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One type of figurative language that is used often in The Odyssey is personification. Personification is when animate or human-like qualities are given to an inanimate object or concept. For example, saying "the flowers danced in the wind" is personification. The flowers are being personified: they are not actually dancing, but their movement is being likened to dancing.

In The Odyssey, we can see multiple examples of personification. Dawn is frequently personified throughout the epic. Here is one such example:

"As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared..."

Of course, dawn, the break of day, does not actually have fingers, but Dawn is often described as having fingers, which is a human-like quality.

Another example of personification comes in Book IX:

"...we saw a cavern yawning above the water..."

The cavern is not actually yawning, as a human does, but the opening of the cavern is more vibrantly described by personifying it with the verb "yawn."

There are certainly more examples of personification that can be found throughout the Odyssey, as Homer employed it often, but here are just two examples.


favoritethings | Student

Two prominent examples of epic simile come in books 5 and 6.

"Struggling, he grasped the rock with both his hands and hung there, groaning, till the great wave passed.  that one he thus escaped, but the back-flowing water struck him again, still struggling, and swept him out to sea.  And just as, when a polyp is torn from out its bed, about its suckers clustering pebbles cling, so on the rocks pieces of skin were stripped from his strong hands."  Here, Odysseus is compared to a polyp; he is essentially as small and weak as this tiny creature when pitted against all the might and power of Poseidon's vast waters.  The visual and tactile imagery of the pieces of skin he leaves behind, stuck to the rock, tells us how strong and determined he is even in the face of such terrible odds against him.

Then, once he reaches Phaeacia, "He set off like a lion that is bred among the hills and trusts its strength; onward it goes, beaten with rain and wind; its two eyes glare; and now in search of oxen or of sheep it moves, or tracking the wild deer; its belly bids it make trial of the flocks, even by entering the unguarded folds; so was Odysseus about to meet those fair-haired maids, all naked though he was, for need constrained him."  This simile compares Odysseus to a lean and hungry lion, a predator, a creature driven by animal instincts who is forced to act shrewdly out of pure need.  He needs water, he needs food, he needs shelter and rest.  In a way, the simile reduces him, simply, to these needs and his confidence in his own ability to find a way to have them met.