Classical Mythology Images and Insight, Third Edition

Following is an outline of the chapter along with the main learning objectives.  To help coordinate your studies, this outline and the learning objectives are organized to match your textbook.  This organization is also utilized in the chapter review section.

Part 1:  Key Themes

A.     You should be able to compare the Hero Odysseus to other more "brash" young warriors, and Heroes such as Achilles and Ajax, in terms of  the differences in the mythic Heroes, their functions in terms of role models, protectors, and (especially) their use of resources such as intelligence versus brute strength.

B.     You should be able to discuss the mythic journey of Odysseus in terms of his quest to return home to his wife, her role as his counterpart, both in terms of narrative functions and role model.

Part 2: Differences between the "Iliad" and the "Odysseus"

A.     You should be able to discuss the theories of authorship that account for the differences in the narrative properties of the "Iliad" compared to the "Odysseus" in terms of: the less battle-oriented "Odysseus" might have been written by an aging, more peace-oriented Homer; a female author might have written the "Odysseus" because it has more female roles and more  domestic scenes and female concerns in the narrative; always bearing in mind the concept of multi-authorship and compilation of various resources.

B.     You should be able to discuss the "Odysseus" in terms of the extensiveness of the material -- both in terms of actual mass of stories included in the narrative and in terms of the journey itself (all over the Mediterranean basin/the "known world" and into the mythic realms of the Underworld, etc.).

C.     You should be able to discuss the narrative of the "Odysseus" in terms of its abundant supernatural elements (such as Gods and Goddesses, ghosts, villains) and special effects  (such as turning men into 9-year-old swine and siren songs).

D.     You should be able to discuss the structuring of the narrative of the "Odysseus" in terms of complexity -- where the Hero does not appear until the fourth chapter; the span of time (even though the story itself takes place in only six weeks, it relates events over a nineteen year period); and in terms of the various realms explored (both literal and mythic).

E.      You should be able to discuss the character of Demodocus in terms of: his representing the actual author of the "Odysseus"; his mythic skill as bard -- so good that "Apollo or the Muse must have taught him"; and the underlying theme of gifts form the Gods and Goddesses as double-edged -- Demodocus is given "matchless love" and "divine inspiration for his music" but is robbed of his sight.

Part 3: A Different Kind of Hero

A.     You should be able to discuss the role of Odysseus in terms of his domination of the "Odyssey"; he is the star of the narrative and all other characters are seen in relation to him.

B.     You should be able to discuss the cultural implications of a Hero (Odysseus) who relies on cunning, intelligence, strategy more than his extraordinary strength and endurance.

C.     You should be able to discuss the significance of a Hero who is NOT semi-divine, but has two mortal parents; you should include the auxiliary myth that gives Odysseus a divine grandfather (who is the son of the God Hermes and is known for his thievery and deception -- qualities that are often ascribed to Odysseus himself) and the value of  parental attributes/gifts to the Heroic ideal as well as the cultural ideal.

D.     You should be able to discuss the concept of brain vs. brawn in terms of the many myths concerning Odysseus -- in comparison to myth regarding the feats of such Heroes as Achilles; you should include factors such as his age, his parentage, and his "chameleon-like" qualities.

E.      You should be able to discuss the comparative qualities of Odysseus and the Goddess Athene in terms of strategy (including forethought and prudence), rationalism and ingenuity -- comparing the aspects of divine and mortal ideals and her appearance in the narrative as an "unexpected occurrence of rational thought".

F.      You should be able to discuss the cultural implications of Odysseus' opening words, he blames people for creating more suffering for themselves than "necessity decrees"; you should relate this to cultural concepts such as divine law (the good get rewarded and the evil punished) and the evolution of the character of Odysseus as he incorporates this philosophy -- acting with more prudence and awareness of the possible consequences of his actions.

G.    You should be able to discuss the elements of the narrative that deal with Odysseus' son, Telemachus, in terms of the Oedipal foreshadowing of events should Odysseus be unsuccessful in dealing with his wife's 100 unwanted suitors.

H.     You should be able to discuss the significance of the story of Odysseus' encounter with the giant cannibal, Polythemus -- Poseidon's son and the cause for Poseidon making Odysseus wander for 10 years as punishment; you should keep in mind the sacred concepts of host/guest relationships (that form part of the overall theme of the "Iliad" and are now addressed in the "Odysseus"), in terms of competing interests of the Gods and Goddesses; and in terms of Odysseus causing his own retribution by the act of bragging

Part 4: Odysseus' and Images of the Feminine

A.     You should be able to discuss the significance of Odysseus' journey in terms of the roles women play; including the fact that at almost every stage of his journey Odysseus encounters a female who at first challenges him, then aids him.

B.     You should be aware of the correlations between the concepts of the Heroic quest as it deals with the resonances of the Goddess and matriarchal systems that preceded the patriarchal age of the ancient Greeks, including the use of magic and secret rituals into mythic realms such as the Underworld (which as we have discussed, can be symbolic of the womb and of rebirth) and to turn men into the lowest denominator, exploiting their animal natures.

C.     You should be able to discuss the implications  of the God Zeus' actions in only sending the male God Hermes to assist Odysseus as he becomes enthralled by females and the rest of the time he is aided either by the female Goddesses or mortal women.

D.     You should be able to discuss the cultural implications of the character of Circe, known as the "Enchantress", and her knowledge of the secrets of such chthonic earth Goddesses as Gaea, Demeter, and Persephone -- who turns men into swine and enthralls Odysseus, yet uses her secret knowledge to help Odysseus overcome such obstacles as descending into the Underworld, defeating monsters and listening to the bewitching sirens' song.

E.      You should be able to discuss the character of Calypso whose sexual demands would seem to imply a masculine concept of paradise, yet is intolerable because it  (female sexuality) dominates Odysseus, challenging the male role; you should also consider the cultural implications of Calypso's offer of another aspect of paradise (immortality) which also is not accepted by Odysseus.

F.      You should be able to discuss the significance of Odysseus' wife, Penelope, in terms of cultural ideals -- a faithful who waits nineteen years for her husbands return; a resourceful and intelligent (even wife (crafty, literally and symbolically/figuratively) female who keeps one hundred men at bay  for nineteen years; as counterpart to the ideal qualities of a Hero and in comparison to the attributes and actions of Odysseus; and as the over-riding motivation/object of the quest for Odysseus.

G.     You should be able to discuss the cultural implications of the masculine role and Heroic ideal as Odysseus' character comes to use such female knowledge, validating their advice and power in terms of the evolution from use of brute force to the use of forethought and prudence.

H.     You should be able to discuss the symbolic elements of each woman's role and actions in relation to Odysseus --  the cultural implications of women being able to turn men into swine, to assist Heroes in their quests, to employ strategy, to employ sexual coercion, and to empower or destroy men -- considering how many of the women do both.

I.        You should be able to discuss the ending of the "Odyssey" in terms of both Odysseus' admission to Penelope (on the night of his return) that he must leave again -- relating this to the role of the Hero and the concept of death by the allied forces of obscurity/domestication/civilization, and the reconciliation's brought about by the intervention of the God Zeus and the Goddess Athene; effectively controlling the conclusion (and legacy of) the Troy Saga.

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