Study Questions for Odyssey IV-VI

Here are some more study questions for the next three books of the Odyssey.  I will put up a longer blog post that might serve as a model for your own contributions over the weekend.

Please also remember that the “comments” function is now enabled for every post. If you want to respond to any of the questions that I put up, or if you want to add questions or ideas of your own, go right ahead – somebody has to be the first! Ideally, this blog will become a natural extension of our in-class conversations.

Questions for Book IV:

  • This is the first time we’ve seen Menelaos and Helen after their return from the War.  How’s their marriage doing?
  • You will notice that a lot of people are telling a lot of different stories in this book.  Try to come up with a rough diagram that would illustrate who is narrating when and how the stories are related to one another.  Why might Homer construct such an elaborate structure?

Questions for Book V:

  • This is our first real meeting with Odysseus.  What is your inital impression of him?
  • What kind of a relationship does he have with Kalypso?  And are there ways to productively relate Kalypso as a host to Penelope, Nestor or Menelaos?

Questions for Book VI:

  • The Phaiakians are our first example of a non-Greek society.  Are there any pertinent differences between them and the Greeks?
  • What does Odysseus’ behavior at the river tell us about him (beyond the obvious conclusion that he’s crafty)?


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2 Responses to Study Questions for Odyssey IV-VI

  1. Charlie says:

    Here’s something interesting that I noticed in the last three books: the Greek gods show a good deal of favoritism with mortals. Some, such as Aias from the story of the Ancient (p. 68), are slain by wrathful gods, usually when they fail to make the proper sacrifices or display arrogance. Others, such as Odysseus, earn the admiration of the gods on account of virtue or heroism. Still others, such as Penelope in book IV, receive divine assistance out of pity(p. 77). How, then, should Odysseus seek to maintain his status with the gods, especially as Poseidon the Earthshaker attempts to hinder his return? Is it as simple as remaining virtuous, or does Odysseus also have to humble himself to evoke sympathy from the gods? Must he also avoid arrogance and perform homage to the enraged deities? What does it take to please the likes of the gods, who so often succumb to caprices and act out of anger?

    • Kaitlin says:

      I feel like this is a hard question to find a concrete answer to. At times, it seem as if there is nothing the humans can do to please the gods. After all, Odysseus is aided by Athena throughout the poem, yet Poseidon does all he can to stop his journey. The same actions of Odysseus prompted both of these responses, in that he does what he must to survive and find his way home. I suppose homage would be a way to sway the gods to your side, but at the same time it doesn’t always work because the gods are so fickle.

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