Skip over navigation

The Odyssey

Homer

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions & Essay Topics

full title  · The Odyssey

author · Homer; some critics argue for multiple authorship

type of work · Poem

genre · Epic

language · Ancient Greek (Ionic dialect mixed with archaic forms and other dialects)

time and place written · Unknown, but probably mainland Greece, approximately 700 b.c.e.

date of first publication · Unknown

narrator · The poet, who invokes the assistance of the Muse; Odysseus narrates Books 912.

point of view · The narrator speaks in the third person and is omniscient. He frequently offers insight into the thoughts and feelings of even minor characters, gods and mortals alike; Odysseus narrates Books 912 in the first person. Odysseus freely gives inferences about the thoughts and feelings of other characters.

tone · Celebratory and nostalgic; the poet views the times in which the action is set as glorious and larger than life.

tense · Past; large portions of the poem (especially Books 912) are narrated in flashbacks.

setting (time) · Bronze Age (approximately twelfth century b.c.e.); the Odyssey begins where the Iliad ends and covers the ten years after the fall of Troy.

setting (place) · Odysseus’s wanderings cover the Aegean and surrounding seas and eventually end in Ithaca, in northwestern Greece; Telemachus travels from Ithaca to southern Greece.

protagonist · Odysseus

major conflict · Odysseus must return home and vanquish the suitors who threaten his estate; Telemachus must mature and secure his own reputation in Greek society.

rising action · The return of Odysseus to Ithaca; the return of Telemachus to Ithaca; their entrance into the palace; the abuse Odysseus receives; the various omens; the hiding of the arms and locking of the palace doors; Penelope’s challenge to the suitors; the stringing of the bow

climax · The beginning of Book 22, when the beggar in the palace reveals his true identity as Odysseus

falling action · Odysseus and Telemachus fight and kill the suitors; they put to death the suitors’ allies among the palace servants.

themes · The power of cunning over strength; the pitfalls of temptation; the tension between goals and obstacles; the misery of separation; maturation as a journey

motifs  · Disguises; storytelling; seductresses

symbols  · Food; the wedding bed; the great bow; symbols of temptation (Circe, the lotus, the Sirens’ song, the cattle of the Sun)

foreshadowing  · Agamemnon’s fate at the hands of his wife and his vindication by his son foreshadow the domestic troubles and triumphs Odysseus faces when he returns to Ithaca; Odysseus is nearly recognized by his wife and servants several times in Books 1819, foreshadowing the revelation of his identity in Book 22.

More Help

Previous Next
The Sirens

by senayabraham, March 05, 2013

Odysseus covered his mens ears with beeswax, because they would never want to go back home listening to the sirens.

2 Comments

32 out of 79 people found this helpful

no

by n00fyd0minat0r, March 20, 2013

NO YOU THOUGHT BOII!!!!!!!

3 Comments

31 out of 155 people found this helpful

The Odyssey

by atemplar16, May 30, 2013

what can u tell me about the Odyssey so i can finish a crossword puzzle for english9

1 Comments

12 out of 52 people found this helpful

See all 23 readers' notes   →

Follow Us