Critical Analysis Essay Prompts For The Odyssey

  • 1

    Argue against the claim that The Odyssey ought to be read as a tragedy because of all the pain inflicted upon its protagonist, Odysseus.

    Although Odysseus' name means "Son of Pain" and he is made to suffer greatly before achieving his nostos (homecoming), the fact remains that he ultimately does achieve nostos. When he returns to Ithaca, he finds that his immediate family has remained faithful to him, and is able to reclaim his rightful place as the king of Ithaca. Although the amount of hardship he has had to endure may make such an outcome seem implausible, the implausibility is better explained by the epic nature of the work, rather than by calling it a tragedy.

  • 2

    Works like The Odyssey offer us insight into the customs and beliefs of the ancient cultures that produced them. Describe one such custom that The Odyssey makes clear was important in ancient Greece.

    One example of such a custom is that of hospitality: it was thought that guests might always be gods in disguise, and therefore ought to be treated with the utmost respect. To this end, guests were often fed, clothed, and so forth, prior to the host asking after their lineage and purpose in their land.

  • 3

    Is Odysseus a just man? Provide evidence to support your answer.

    Although Odysseus has character flaws and may not hold what we consider a modern conception of justice, he does seem to act justly in most regards. He only deceives Polyphemus after Polyphemus has rejected the custom of a guest-gift and eaten several of Odysseus' men; he only disguises himself in Ithaca in order to test his family and the suitors. And, perhaps the most important piece of evidence in favor of his being just, he only punishes those servants and suitors who wronged his household while he was away; he lets the innocent live.

  • 4

    Discuss fidelity in the poem. Was Odysseus faithful to his household?

    Although Odysseus has many affairs on his journey home, the implication is always that he had to do so in order to progress towards home; there were many moments when it would have been easier for him to give up or surrender, but he never truly lost sight of home. (The year he spent with Circe might be seen as a counterexample to this; nonetheless, the fact remains that he returned to his quest and did not forsake his homeland). At minimum, it is evident that the text's notion of fidelity is not reducible to something as simple as sexual relations.

  • 5

    Discuss fidelity in the poem. Was Odysseus' household faithful to him?

    Many servants of Ithaca betrayed Odysseus and sided with the suitors, but the "principle players" of his homeland -- the Swineherd, Telemachus, Penelope, Argos, and Laertes -- remained faithful to him despite his absence. This fidelity is symbolized best by Argos, who seemingly staved off death until he could see his master home safely. Penelope, too, could easily have remarried, and was under tremendous pressure to do so; yet she employed every possible means of keeping the suitors at bay in order to continue waiting for her true husband to return to her.

  • Essay about Literary Analysis of "The Odyssey"

    784 Words4 Pages

    The Odyssey is a celebrated epic filled with many different themes, motifs, styles, and characters that could be examined in vast detail, but the theme of hospitality is a reoccurring one throughout the entire narrative. Homer writes about examples of both great hospitality and very inhospitable characters in his epic poem. Hospitality in The Odyssey creates definition of how individuals are either punished or rewarded by the gods.

    In the time of The Odyssey, not only large tracts of land separate civilizations, but also natural barriers and mythical obstacles. People could not have made the journeys that they made if they were not able to rely on other peoples for food, shelter, protection, and…show more content…

    Another example of generous hospitality is when Odysseus landed on the shores of Skheria, land of the Phaiakians. They give him a boat full of supplies and send him sailing home, but Poseidon had not finished teaching Odysseus a lesson. Zeus, not wanting to interfere with his brother, allowed him to destroy the Phaiakians and their boat while allowing Odysseus to live. They were punished because the dared to interfere with the gods' punishment of Odysseus.

    In Book Fourteen, the swineherd shows very generous hospitality to a disguised Odysseus. He gives him food and wine to drink. Although the food he is served is " the pork of slaves," the swineherd gives him plenty to quench Odysseus' hunger (448). He is pleased with the swineherd at the courteousness that he shows. Odysseus tells him, "May Zeus and all the gods give you your heart's desire for taking me in so kindly, friend (447)." The swineherd is blessed by the mighty king and will surely be rewarded greatly for his kindness.

    Grudging Hospitality

    When hospitality was not freely given, for example, when Kirke turned most of Odysseus' men into animals. She gave them drink and when they had lost all sense, she "flew after them with her long stick and shut them in a pigsty--bodies, voices, head, and bristles, all swinish now, though minds were still unchanged" (393). She even attempted to turn Odysseus into an

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