Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

Start Free Trial

In The Odyssey, what were some of the complications and solutions Odysseus and his crew encountered in part 2 of their journey home?

Expert Answers

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

Part II of this epic classic certainly contains no shortage of problems that the erstwhile Odysseus and his crew face. There are many to choose from, including his clash with Polyphemus, the cyclops and the gift he receives from Aeolus that disastrously backfires. Both of these events are worth considering in further detail. On the Island of the Cycplopes, the problem is of course that Odysseus and his men find themselves trapped in the cave of Polyphemus. They are only saved by the wily ingenuity of Odysseus, who firstly manages to get Polyphemus drunk so he can be blinded, and then secondly gets himself and his men out hiding under the bellies of his sheep and goats. However, although Odysseus is shown to be the originator of the solution to this problem he and his men face, he is also incredibly foolish in the way he reveals his name to Polyphemus, so he can be cursed in the name of Polyphemus' father, Poseidon:

'Do not,' they exclaimed, 'be mad enough to provoke this savage creature further; he has thrown one rock at us already which drove us back again to the mainland, and we made sure it had been the death of us; if he had then heard any further sound of voices he would have pounded our heads and our ship's timbers into a jelly with the rugged rocks he would have heaved at us, for he can throw them a long way.'

"But I would not listen to them, and shouted out to him in my rage, 'Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.'

Even though his men plead with him not to reveal his name, Odysseus shows himself to be rather arrogant, and proceeds to do so, allowing Polyphemus to curse him and his men, which indirectly leads to the death of all of his crew as they are picked off one by one by the various trials and tribulations that they face thanks to Poseidon.

Aeolus, King of the Winds, meaning to be helpful, gives Odysseus a bag of all the winds that would blow him off his homeward course. However, when Odysseus is asleep, his men open the bag, thinking it contains gold, and the winds blow out, taking the ship all the way back to the island of Aeolus. This is a problem that has no solution, as Aeolus refuses to help them again, saying that Odysseus and his men are obviously cursed, and they are left to begin their long and eventful journey back to Ithaca themselves. Arguably, Odysseus shows himself not to be a good leader in this incident as well, as he could have either explained to the men clearly what was in the bag or not left it unattended.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team