What do you think is the symbolic meaning of the Greek gods
and godesses? Are they meant to be taken literally? If not,
what is it that they represent? Think carefully about the
speech of Zeus (lines 48-62). What does it suggest about human
behavior and the tragic fate of human individuals? Where is
Odysseus at this point in the adventure? What is the relevance
of Zeus's speech to Odysseus's plight? Pay attention to the
apparition of Athena to Telemakhos (lines 142-149). What are
the implications of the use of words like "daydreaming"
and "dreamed"? Does Athena appear to Telemakhos
as a goddess or does she use a disguise? What does this imply?
What is the problem at Odysseus's house that Athena is trying
to solve by advising Telemakhos? What is the implication of
the description of the suitors as a "wolf pack"?
Pay very close attention to the description of the omen of
the two eagles that appear to Telemakhos and the assembled
Ithakans (lines 155-186). Is the interpretation furnished
by the prophet Halitherses the correct one? Why? What exactly
do the eagles mean?
Try to determine what it is exactly that Telemakhos learns from
the wisdom of Nestor. How does Nestor feel about the Trojan
War? (lines 111-125). Pay attention to the disagreements that
arose among the victorious Greeks after the fall of Troy (lines
What does Telemakhos learn from Menelaos? Is it a similar lesson
as that learned from Nestor? How does Menelaos feel about the
Trojan War? (lines 75-123) Pay close attention to Menelaos's
account of his encounter with the god Proteus, "the ancient
of the sea" (lines 377-514). What is the symbolic meaning
of the use of the seal disguises? What is the meaning of Proteus's
ability to change shapes? Do Menelaos and his men in some sense
also change shapes by using a disguise? What is the meaning
of all these transformations?
Is Odysseus trapped in Kalypso's island against his will? What
does Kalypso offer to Odysseus in order to keep him in her island?
What is the alternative? Think about the rescue of Odysseus
by Ino (Leukothea) after leaving Ogygia Island. Is there symbolic
meaning to the use of her veil? Pay very close attention to
the description of the shelter that Odysseus finds in Skheria
Island under a pair of olive trees. Are those trees symbolic
Think of Odysseus's choice of behavior at the moment when he
meets princess Nausicaa. What are his alternatives? How does
he act? What does he look like? Does his appearance change during
the encounter? Why?
What is the significance of the transfiguration of Athena into
a small girl who guides Odysseus to Alkinoos's palace? What
about the fog that surrounds Odysseus as he walks through the
city? Pay attention to Odysseus's behavior in this episode.
Is he proud? humble? How does he act toward the Queen Arete?
(the name "Arete" can mean "virtue" in Greek).
What do you make of Alkinoos's offer to give Odysseus the princess
Nausikaa as his bride?
Why is the figure of the poet/singer Demodokos important? What
or who does he represent? Think about the tears of Odysseus
upon hearing the songs of Demodokos. What does the poet sing
about? Why does Odysseus cover his tears? Consider very carefully
the response of Odysseus to the challenge at the athletic games
(lines 161-165). What is the wisdom implicit in this speech?
Does Odysseus's subsequent throwing of discus contradict this
wisdom? Consider the speech of Odysseus in response to Seareach's
insults (lines 175-186). What is the significance of Demodokos's
song about the love affair of Ares and Aphrodite? How do the
gods react to the revelation of the adultery? Why? Think about
Poseidon's reaction to the event. Is it different from the other
gods'? How does Odysseus behave toward Demodokos? Why?
What is the significance of Odysseus's role as the teller of
his own story? What do you think of Odysseus and his men's behavior
in the raid of Ismarus (the Kikones episode)? What is the meaning
of the Lotos Eaters adventure? Pay special attention to all
the details of the Kyklops episode? What does the cannibalistic
monster symbolize? Why does he have only one eye? Why does Odysseus
call himself "Nohbdy"? Think about the use of the
sheep to escape from the monster's cave. What does it symbolize?
Why does Odysseus reveal his name to the Kyklops? Is it wise
to do so?
What is the meaning of the bag of winds in the Aiolos adventure?
Is the adventure with the Laistrygones in some sense similar
to that with the Kyklops? Why? Is Kirke successful in turning
Odysseus into a pig? (think twice). Why must Odysseus go to
the Underworld (Hades) after his stay in Kirke's island? What
is the significance of the death of Elpenor?
Pay close attention to the encounters of Odysseus with his mother
Antikleia, with the prophet Teiresias, and with Agamemnon and
Akhilleus in the Underworld. In particular, what is the lesson
that Teiresias teaches Odysseus concerning the problem of avoiding
death and safely returning home? (lines 112-127). What does
Odysseus learn from Akhilleus and from Agamemnon?
Pay attention to Kirke's warnings to Odysseus after he returns
from the Underworld (read with particular attention lines 136-142).
What do the Seirenes sing about? Why are they so dangerous?
What is the meaning of the dangers posed by Skylla and Kharybdis?
What do the monsters symbolize? Why must the Greek adventurers
refrain from raiding the cows of Helios? Why is Odysseus the
only survivor? What saves him?
Pay very close attention to the speech of Poseidon complaining
about the success of Odysseus in Phaeacia (lines 165-170). What
is the meaning of the transformation of the Phaeacian ship into
stone? What is the meaning of Odysseus's meeting with Athena
upon his arrival to Ithaka? What does she advise?
Why must Odysseus go first to the forest and to the swineherd's
hut rather than to his own palace? Why does Odysseus conceal
his identity? Is there symbolic significance to this situation?
Are the false stories Odysseus tells in Ithaka somewhat revealing
about the reality of his own life?
Notice the close proximity of Odysseus and Telemakhos's return
home. Can the perils and lessons of Telemakhos's journey be
somehow compared to those of Odysseus's travels? What is the
significance of the help that Telemakhos gives to the fugitive
What do you think about the fact that Odysseus reveals his identity
to his son? What of their plot to kill the suitors? Is it justified?
Does it accord well with the principles of justice set forth
in the Odyssey ? What do you think of Athena's eagerness to
see the suitors killed? Is that proper in a divinity? Is Athena,
the goddess of wisdom, wise?
Why does Odysseus wish to go to his own palace disguised as
a beggar? What does the beggar disguise symbolize? Why is it
important for him to show patience and self-restraint, even
when hit and insulted? What is the meaning of the death of Argos,
Odysseus's old hunting dog? Consider the advice of Athena to
Odysseus (lines 470-473). Is that a consistent statement? Does
it reveal an internal contradiction?
What is the symbolic meaning of Odysseus's confrontation with
the beggar Iros? Why does Odysseus warn Amphinomos about the
danger of his return and vengeance (lines 157-187)?
Why does Odysseus withhold his identity from Penelope? Does
he trust her? Pay extremely close attention to the scenes when
Eurykleia recognizes Odysseus. What gives him away? Follow very
closely the story of Odysseus's baptism by his grandfather Autolycus
and of the boar hunt on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. What
is the symbolic significance of these events in reference to
the determination and shaping of Odysseus's character while
he was still a very young boy? Compare the passages describing
the boar's hideout (lines 511-520) to those describing the shelter
of Odysseus when he first arrives to Phaeacia (Book 5, lines
500-510). What are the implications of the similarities? Who
decides to set up the contest of the bow to find a new husband
for Penelope? What does that decision imply about her fidelity
Notice the self-restraint of Odysseus. What is the meaning of
his conversation with Athena? Pay attention to the visions and
prophecies of Theoklymenos.
What does the contest of the bow symbolize? Why can't the suitors
string the bow? Can Telemakhos string it? Pay extreme attention
to the scenes when Odysseus strings his bow. Why is the bow
compared to a harp or lyre (lines 460-469, p. 374)?
What do you think of Odysseus's killing of the suitors? Is it
justified? What do you think of his killing of those who embraced
his knees and begged for mercy? What is the significance of
his slaying of the prophet Leodes? Notice the description of
the victorious Odysseus as "spattered and caked with blood
like a mountain lion" (line 453). Compare this description
to that referring to the Kyklops (Book 9, line 317). What are
the implications of this similarity? What do you think of Telemakhos's
hanging of the maids and his mutilation of the goatherd Melanthios?
Do you see some similarities of character and behavior not only
between Odysseus and the Kyklops but also between Odysseus and
How does Penelope finally recognize Odysseus? What is the symbolic
meaning of the connection between the olive tree and the marriage
bed? Given the reunion of Odysseus and Penelope, can the Odyssey
be regarded as a comedy? Why? Why not?
How does Laertes, Odysseus's father, recognize Odysseus? What
is the symbolic significance of the fruit trees? Is the anger
of the suitors' relatives justified? How does Odysseus propose
to deal with this problem? Is the ending of the Odyssey through
Athena's intervention a convincing and meaningful way of putting
an end to the struggle between the Ithakans? Is it realistic
to believe that the suitors' relatives simply dropped their
weapons and went back home? What is the problem with this ending?
Is it possible to suppose that Homer meant his readers to realize
that the true ending of the Odyssey is something falling outside
the scope of the poem and which the reader himself needs to
envision on the basis of the events of the poem? In that case,
do you think the Odyssey is a tragedy or a comedy?