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The Odyssey

Main Ideas

Metaphors and Similes

Main Ideas Metaphors and Similes

Book 3

Nine years we wove a web of disaster for those Trojans, 
pressing them hard with every tactic known to man,
and only after we slaved did Zeus award us victory. 

In this metaphor, Nestor compares the Greeks’ siege of Troy to a spider weaving its web, suggesting that it was a difficult, hard-won battle in which the Greeks had to continuously work for a long time in order to overcome the Trojans.

Book 4

. . .would her fine son escape his death 
or go down at her overweening suitors' hands? 
Her mind in torment, wheeling 
like some lion at bay, dreading gangs of hunters 
closing their cunning ring around him for the finish.

In this simile, the narrator compares Penelope’s son Telemachus, whom her suitors wish to kill, to a lion surrounded by hunters. 

Book 5

Just look at him there, nearing Phaeacia’s shores 
where he’s fated to escape his noose of pain 
that’s held him until now.

In this metaphor, Poseidon compares Odysseus’s entrapment on Calypso’s island to a rope tied around his neck.

Pell-mell the rollers tossed her along down-current, 
wild as the North Wind tossing thistle along the fields 
at high harvest—dry stalks clutching each other tightly— 
so the galewinds tumbled her down the sea, this way, that way, 
now the South Wind flinging her over to North to sport with, 
now the East Wind giving her up to West to harry on and on. 

This epic simile compares the waves tossing Odysseus's boat to the wind blowing dry weeds across fields in the fall.

Book 6

How often their hearts 
must warm with joy to see you striding into the dances— 
such a bloom of beauty.

In this metaphor, Odysseus compares Alcinous’s beauty to that of a blooming flower.

Book 7

There in the future he must suffer all that Fate 
and the overbearing Spinners spun out on his life line 
the very day his mother gave him birth . . .

In this metaphor, the Fates are compared to Spinners, or weavers, and Odysseus’s life to a thread that they finished spinning before he was even born; in other words, the events of his life have been predetermined.

Book 9

So we seized our stake with its fiery tip 
and bored it round and round in the giant’s eye 
till blood came boiling up around that smoking shaft . . .
. . . its crackling roots blazed and hissed— 
as a blacksmith plunges a glowing ax or adze 
in an ice-cold bath and the metal screeches steam 
and its temper hardens—that’s the iron’s strength—
so the eye of the Cyclops sizzled round that stake! 

As the men stab the Cyclops in the eye with a stake, the narrator compares the hissing sound to that of a red-hot ax head dipped in cold water by a blacksmith.

Book 19

I noticed his glossy tunic too, clinging to his skin 
like the thin glistening skin of a dried onion . . .

In this simile, Odysseus (disguised as a stranger) compares the perfect fit of his tunic to the shiny skin of an onion, a description that pleases Penelope because she made the tunic.

Book 21

. . .with his virtuoso ease Odysseus strung his mighty bow. 
Quickly his right hand plucked the string to test its pitch 
and under his touch it sang out clear and sharp . . .

In this metaphor, the narrator compares Odysseus stringing his bow to shoot an arrow to a skilled musician tuning a stringed instrument.

Book 23

The more she spoke, the more a deep desire for tears 
welled up inside his breast—he wept as he held the wife 
he loved, the soul of loyalty, in his arms at last. 
Joy, warm as the joy that shipwrecked sailors feel 
when they catch sight of land . . .

The narrator compares Penelope’s happiness when she realizes her long-lost husband has returned to that of a lost sailor who has just spotted land after a life-threatening encounter at sea.