The Odyssey


Books 1 and 2

Book 1 Summary

The epic poem opens with a traditional “invocation of the Muse,” in which the author calls upon the Muse to guide his writing and help him to tell the story well. The story is that of Odysseus, ruler of Ithaca. Of all the heroes who survived the Trojan War—the story of which is narrated in the Iliad—Odysseus is the only one who has not been able to make his way home since the war ended ten years ago. He is trapped on the island of Ogygia, where he is kept prisoner under the enchantments of Calypso, a goddess who wants to marry him. Although most of the gods pity Odysseus and would aid him in returning home, Poseidon, god of the sea, is angry with the hero and continues to create obstacles for him. The sea god has not forgiven Odysseus for blinding his son, the Cyclops.

On Mount Olympus, Athena appeals to her father Zeus to help Odysseus find his way home; she hopes that Poseidon can put aside his anger. Athena asks Zeus to send Hermes to Ogygia to help Odysseus get free of Calypso’s spell. She then flies to Ithaca to meet with Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, who is now a young man. In Ithaca, the house of Odysseus has been taken over by a number of greedy, disrespectful suitors of Penelope, Odysseus’s wife. Penelope has put off choosing any of them for years, hoping that her husband will someday return. To the despair of Penelope and Telemachus, the suitors are constantly carousing throughout the house, eating all of their food and drinking their wine. Both wife and son have all but given up hope that Odysseus still lives.

Disguised as an old friend of Odysseus, a man named Mentes, Athena goes to Telemachus and rallies him to action. She tells Telemachus not to give up on his father, for he is still alive and will soon return to Ithaca. She says that Telemachus must no longer “cling to… boyhood” (1.341) and that he must start acting like a man. She advises him to banish the suitors from his home, and then to set sail for Pylos and Sparta to seek...

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Essays About The Odyssey