The Odyssey


Plot Summary

Ten years after the fall of Troy, the hero Odysseus is still unable to make his way home. The wrath of the sea god Poseidon—whose Cyclops son Odysseus blinded—and a number of other misfortunes have combined to keep the hero from Ithaca, his kingdom. In Ithaca, the palace of Odysseus has been taken over by suitors of his wife, Penelope. Though Penelope remains faithful to Odysseus and continues to hope for his return, most Ithacans, including Odysseus’s son Telemachus, have given the hero up for dead. Both Penelope and Telemachus—who lacks the fighting experience to drive out his mother’s suitors—are miserable and powerless against the drunken suitors who have taken over the palace like an invading army.

As the story begins, Odysseus is a prisoner of the goddess Calypso, who wants him for a husband. For seven years he has lived with her on her lonely island, Ogygia, pining for Penelope and home but lacking a boat to take him there. The goddess Athena is Odysseus’s most enthusiastic champion among the gods. She appeals to her father, Zeus, for help in freeing Odysseus from Calypso and guiding him home. While waiting for the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus to come to some consensus about the fate of Odysseus, Athena flies to Ithaca to encourage and help Telemachus. In the disguise of an old family friend, Athena convinces Telemachus to begin acting like a man instead of a boy. With her guidance, Telemachus finally takes a verbal stand against the suitors and goes on a journey to seek out word of his father. From old war companions of his father’s, Telemachus discovers that Odysseus is indeed still alive, a prisoner on Calypso’s island. Encouraged by the news and having matured a great deal during his journey, Telemachus prepares to return to Ithaca. He does not know that Penelope’s suitors, led by the particularly aggressive Antinous, are preparing to ambush and assassinate him upon his return.

The focus of the story turns from Telemachus to Odysseus at this point. The messenger Hermes,...

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Essays About The Odyssey