According to the myth the Homeric Greeks would have known, Achilles was given a choice by the gods to live a short, glorious life full of excitement and heroism or a long, tranquil life with little recognition or fame.
Achilles himself is not a two-dimensional stereotype. It was he who disguised himself as an old beggar and infiltrated the enemy.
While he does seem to grow throughout his wanderings, the reader should not look at each event as a one more learning experience for the hero. Though intriguing, we should remember that the performance of oral poetry played a much greater role in pre- or semiliterate cultures like the Greek world of the Iliad and the Odyssey than it does today or did even in the later, classical period of Greek history.
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy. When it proves effective, Odysseus lies even to his own familycheats, or steals in ways that we would not expect in an epic hero.
His melancholy at the Phaeacian games prompts an insult from Broadsea, which in turn provokes an intense series of challenges between Odysseus and the Phaeacian youths.
Even when Athena intervenes on his behalf, she often leaves ultimate success or failure up to Odysseus. This interpretation, which seems to be the origin of the belief that Homer was blind, suggests that Homer inserts himself into his own story. His concern with victory is also cultural, as well as practical.
But Achilles is a simpler character. It is easy to see why some critics like to call him the first "modern man.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove— the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all, the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return. Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds, many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea, fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
That Demodocus and his songs occupy a surprisingly large portion of Book 8 may owe simply to the culturally important role that oral poets played in Homeric life. When Odysseus left for Troy, he had already established his reputation as a hero.
Odysseus can be merciful, as when he spares the bard Phemius, or brutal, as he seems when dealing with the dozen disloyal maidservants. The Odyssey announces its subject matter in a different fashion from the Iliad. The Odyssey is not a lesson plan for growth; the episodes are not didactic examples of the importance of prudence or anything else.
He creates his own code of conduct through his adventures. Although he is self-disciplined refusing to eat the lotushis curiosity is sometimes the root of his trouble as with the Cyclops.
Additionally, though he makes no mention of it again after Book 8, Homer has already hinted that Odysseus has aroused the affection of Princess Nausicaa—just a short while after escaping the demanding attentions of the divine Calypso.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus, start from where you will—sing for our time too. We can contrast Odysseus, for example, with the great warrior Achilles in The Iliad. Certainly Odysseus does grow in wisdom and judgment throughout his ventures. Odysseus often has only two choices: Because he figures so prominently in the episode at Scheria and because the content of his first song so closely resembles that of the Iliad, commentators have often tried to equate the bard Demodocus with Homer.
In other ways, however, he seems slow to learn.
He is favored by the gods and respected and admired by the mortals. As Knox notes in the introduction to the Fagles translation, in the Odyssey, in contrast to the Iliad, the Muse is asked to choose where to begin.
He wants to return home and live well in Ithaca; as a result, every step along the way is another test, sometimes, another battle. It treats the subject matter of the epic in an abbreviated form but captures the themes those subjects will explore.
Even the wrath of Poseidon does not keep him from his homecoming.With these words the Odyssey begins. The poet asks for inspiration from the Muse and imagines her singing through him. An ancient epic poem states at the outset, in capsule form, the subject of the work to follow, and this epic is no exception.
The Odyssey study guide contains a biography of Homer, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. A summary of Books 7–8 in Homer's The Odyssey. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Odyssey and what it means.
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Jul 18, · The Odyssey book summary in under five minutes! Homer's epic poem The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus, Greek hero of the Trojan War, and his adventures at sea during his travel home.
Odysseus is a combination of the self-made, self-assured man and the embodiment of the standards and mores of his culture. He is favored by the gods and respected and admired by the mortals.Download