Short on time?

Get essay writing help

The Odyssey Essay Examples

27 samples in this category

Homer uses the theme of family to explore the move to a different type of heroism. The move from importance of gaining kleos (glory) to achieving a successful nostos (homecoming) is shown through Homer’s depiction of a broken family coming back together. Homer also shows how family life intersects with other themes of identity within the poem. Compared with the Iliad, where heroism is defined by the acts of glory one completes, heroism in the Odyssey is defined through upholding one’s family bonds, and loyalty within a family, which comes in the form of fidelity for Penelope and living up to a father’s legacy for Telemachus. The Odyssey shows how kleos is gained through maintaining the oikos (home), which has the role of elevating a hero. Homer’s focus on the family is also due to the fact that kleos in the Odyssey is not limited to the male sphere, it is something that females can also attain, and rather than being a completely individual pursuit, it requires others to give, and is a communal act.

Homer’s epic poem describes the journey of Odysseus, yet this hero does not seem to take part in many heroic acts. Odysseus is selfish in his desire to return home, often leading to a disregard of his companions, which results in their death. EXAMPLES. Like in the Iliad, where the first word shows the real focus of the poem (rage rather than heroism), the first word of the Odyssey is ‘man’. Homer put the focus on mortality rather than heroic deeds, perhaps being the reason that Homer spends the first four books describing the son of the hero instead, showing a focus on the journey to define oneself through their family. Odysseus’s passiveness and ruthlessness are part of the change is goal: to get home rather than to gain kleos through defeating others in battle. The central decision to gain kleos in the Odyssey is actually given to Penelope rather than Odysseus, who has his kleos for fighting but depends on Penelope’s fidelity to raise it to a new level that Achilles or Agamemnon could not reach. Penelope also has kleos for staying faithful but can ruin the familial kleos for Odysseus by remarrying. Competing with suitors is a key part of this epic, as it is not a battle with a foreign invader to the country that kleos is given for – it is overcoming threats to the oikos that grants this new type of kleos and completes the nostos.

Katz describes how a ‘successful nostos upholds kleos’, and the role the female has in this is undeniable. Zeitlin describes the bed as the ‘double-sided sign-of identity for him, fidelity for her’. The bed, which is made using the ‘root’ of a tree, shows how important the idea of sharing a bed is to the theme of family and legacy. Sharing a bed for sexual activity leads to children, carrying on the legacy. It is also a sign of affection between couples and presents the idea of a united couple. Thus, moving the bed represents rejecting Odysseus’s identity as a husband and master of the house, it also suggests that Penelope sleeps with another person, which completely breaks the nostos for a hero. Penelope’s fidelity is used by Homer to present a contrast in imagery and language. As described by Foley, ‘the consequences [of infidelity] … can reverberate out to corrupt’. This is seen when Agamemnon’s wife, Clytemnestra, goes to another man (Aegisthus), which has fatal consequences, as Agamemnon is murdered by them – which contrasts with the image of Penelope’s loyalty. Homer also shows a contrast in language, where Agamemnon tells Odysseus to be suspicious of a wife’s actions in book ?? but also compliments Penelope for her ‘kleos aretes’ in book 24 (196-197), praising her moral virtue.

The Odyssey also shows how identity is confirmed and fulfilled through family, and results in balance in all domains. As the Odyssey is an epic poem, we expect our hero to fight against evil on a national scale. Although Odysseus fights many battles, it is only to return home, thus a spectator might wonder whether he is truly an epic hero. However, Homer shows how how the nostos is an epic problem. Odysseus’s cunningness to disguise himself does is not successfully accomplished in his fight against the cyclops. His disguise works however, to rid Ithaca of the suitors that plague his wife and the whole nation’s future, an issue of epic proportions. Similarly, Penelope’s attractiveness and unguarded nature, makes her a target for the suitors, which does not benefit her – but it allows Odysseus to get rid of all threats very easily, thus being a positive aspect in the end. But it is important to note, that it is only when they are together that their individual characteristics can thrive.

Telemachus also benefits from his family, as his journey to find his father endows him with the confidence to confront his mother’s suitors that he did not earlier possess. Family as a way of confirming identity, is an important aspect of talking about Telemachus, in regard to titles and names. Telemachus’ title is ‘son of Odysseus’ a name that grants him much respect outside of Ithaca. But it is an almost ironic title, as Telemachus does not know his father. The qualities that spectator knows are similar to his father in his speech with Nestor (where he makes use of…), he is not aware of himself, as he has not met his father. Thus, Telemachus’’ identity as a son is also confirmed through family, and the Homer’s first word of the poem ‘man’, which foreshadowes the journey to manhood that Telemachus takes. Telemachus’ existence provides kleos for Odysseus as he is an ‘assurance of a continued lineage’ as put by Murnaghan, which is a core part of an oikos, and also contrasts Achilles and Agamemnon who ‘learn of their worthy sons only after they have died’.

Naquet describes the story of the Odyssey as a ‘return to normality’, and this is correct in the sense that socially, Telemachus’ though he is not an infant, is not the master of the house and cannot defend it. Penelope is also in an odd situation, where fidelity to her husband is commended, but she is also in a position where she is vulnerable, and it would not be frowned upon if she remarried. But if she did marry, and entered a new house, or even went back to her father, it would end the social reality that Penelope is married to Odysseus, she would be just a widow. This ambiguity and confusion over placement, relates to the fact that Odysseus’ death during this time is not clear – they do not have the body, and can only act based on assumptions they have. Having a family physically is important, as seen through Homer’s description of the maid Eurycleia recognising Odysseus in book 19 by the scar on his leg and the physical act of getting rid of suitors. During the act of getting rid of the suitors, Odysseus spares the bard – who acts as physical mediator for the immortalisation of the kleos that Odysseus and Penelope possess. This relates back to my previous point of heroism in the Odyssey as a communal act – it requires not only the entire family, but the wider community (which Goldhill describes as the constructor of fame) to affirm and respect. The importance of the wider community is seen in the disregard the suitors have for Telemachus compared to those outside Ithaca. The suitors that break the construct of the host-guest, contrast the respect given to Telemachus during his visit to Nestor. Hospitality in 8th century Greece, expected a host to provide food and drink, without even asking the identity of the guest, as seen between Telemachus and Athena. But the suitors break the expectations of the guest in Greek hospitality as they are described in book 2 to ‘infest our palace day and night, they butcher our cattle… feasting themselves sick’. The word ‘infest’ likens them to vermin, thus making their own ‘butcher’ satisfying.

Show More

The Role Of Women In The Odyssey By Homer

The Odyssey is an ancient Greek epic poem of Homer. It is the continuation of the Iliad, the other Homeric epic poem. In the Odyssey, we can see the journey of the heroes and the literary representation of the ideal woman. It can be said...
4 Pages 1675 Words

Penelope Character Analysis In The Odyssey

Homer’s Odyssey is a story of the homecoming of Odysseus after the Trojan War. Odysseus left his wife, Penelope, and their young son, Telemachos, almost twenty years before the telling of this story to fight in the Trojan War. His absence places Penelope in a...
4 Pages 1837 Words

Odyssey By Homer: Voyage For A Culture And Equality

Homer’s The Odyssey is a book that’s based primarily in ancient Greece, which means that Greek culture is a prominent part of the storyline. Characters in the story can be seen portraying these cultural values such as Xenia and praying to the gods. This story...
2 Pages 740 Words

The Influence Of The Odyssey By Homer

Homer’s The Odyssey is an interactive poem that has influenced literature since it was written in the 8th century BCE. In addition to establishing many conventions for future Western epic poetry, the story interacts with the audience on multiple levels, transforming it from a simple...
5 Pages 2277 Words

Major Themes Trust And Hospitality In The Odyssey

The Odyssey is an epic poem that contains numerous themes that bring significance to the different characters. Odysseus is an Ancient Greek hero involved in the Trojan War. Two main themes are Love/Trust & Hospitality. While Odysseus is gone to war, he experiences hospitality in...
2 Pages 1077 Words

The Role Of Gods In The Odyssey

The role of gods in The Odyssey was to use their powers to help or hinder the lives of people. When using their powers, it determined the events that would later occur in this story. In the epic poem The Odyssey by Homer, he shows...
2 Pages 837 Words

Cunningness As The Main Theme In The Odyssey

If the Iliad is concerning strength, the Odyssey is concerning cunningness. This distinction becomes apparent within the initial lines of the epic. Whereas the Iliad poem tells the story of Achilles, the strongest hero within the Greek army, the Odyssey focuses on a “man of...
2 Pages 950 Words

The Characters Fates In The Odyssey By Homer

The Odyssey by Homer and translated by Robert Fitzgerald is a complex novel pertaining the main characters complicated journey home from Troy to his throne in Ithika. The Greek gods play a big part in his long 10-year journey back home. Are they to blame...
3 Pages 1301 Words

Iliad Versus Odyssey: Comparative Essay

The Odyssey- is best understood as a ‘reception’ or ‘reading’ of the Iliad but one that ultimately wants to problematize its source text– that is, Homer (as a shorthand for whoever the author was) wants the Odyssey to address the same major issues as the...
8 Pages 3854 Words

The Odyssey: Critical Analysis

The Odyssey contains more than 12,000 lines and is divided into 24 volumes. The poet USES flashbacks to describe Odysseus’s 10 years of sea adventures in the 40 days before his arrival at home. The thrilling experience of these 10 years contains many ancient myths,...
5 Pages 2184 Words

What Makes Odysseus The Epic Hero?

In mythology, heroes were considered to be any man who fights and defeats monsters. To become a hero, heroes in mythology had to go through a hero’s journey which would then make them a hero that everyone knows. In The Odyssey by Homer, a narration...
3 Pages 1518 Words

Odyssey As The True Hero Of Ithaca

In a vast majority of ancient Greek epics, males tend to be the heroes of the stories. The Iliad and the Odyssey are perfect examples of male characters being the main heroes in each respectable epic. In Homer’s, The Odyssey Odysseus is proclaimed to be...
5 Pages 2292 Words

Inferno And Odyssey: What Is In Common?

The Odyssey, a poem written by Homer, is a story about Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan War. While he is away, his wife, Penelope is surrounded by these horrible suitors who eat all the food and destroy Odysseus’ home. While in the Inferno, written...
3 Pages 1332 Words
price Check the Price of Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By continuing, you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy.

Join 100k satisfied students
  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
hire writer

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!