The Odyssey

The Odyssey - 411
Background info that you need to know to
successfully read the epic poem. 
Boy girl
*What is an EPIC POEM??
A long, narrative poem that tells about the adventures of
a hero who reflects the ideals and/or values of a nation
or race
Elements of Epic Poems
 The main character or protagonist is heroically larger
than life, often the source and subject of legend or a
national hero.
 The fate of his people depends on the hero.
 There is a course of action in which the hero performs
great and difficult deeds.
*Elements of Epic Poems
 The deeds of the hero are presented without
favoritism, revealing his failings (weaknesses) as
well as his virtues (strengths).
 The action, often in battle, reveals the morethan-human strength of the heroes as they
engage in acts of heroism and courage.
 They cover great distances and/or time.
Epic Poem Elements (Con’t.)
 The episodes, even though they may be fictional,
provide an explanation for some of the circumstances
or events in the history of a nation or people.
 The gods play an active role in the outcome of
 There is a concern with eternal human problems.
 It is written in a dignified, elaborate poetic style.
 All of the various adventures form a” whole,” where
each event relates in some way to the central theme.
What’s the format? A circle!
How is it written?
 Poem begins with a statement  Use of patronymics (calling
of the theme
son by father's name):
“Ares’s son”
 Invocation to the muse or
other deity
 Long, formal speeches by
important characters
 Story begins in medias res (in
the middle of things).
 Journey to the underworld
 Histories and descriptions of  Use of the number 3
significant items
(attempts are made 3 times,
 Uses epic similes & epithets
 Previous episodes in the story
are later recounted
*Similes, Epithets, and Heroes,
Oh My!
 The simile (a directly stated comparison using words
like or as) helps the audience—then and now—picture
how helpless and unwilling the men are.
 Homer uses extended similes so masterfully that such
comparisons now bear his name. A Homeric simile is an
elaborate comparison, developed over several lines,
between something strange or unfamiliar to the audience
and something more familiar to them.
*Examples of Homeric Similes
None would attack—oh, it was strange, I tell
but switching their long tails they faced our
like hounds, who look up when their master
with tidbits for them—as he will—from table.
Humbly those wolves and lions with mighty
fawned on our men…
-- lines 543-547
1. What’s
What do
you know?
2. What’s
What do
you NOT
3. So what are the 2
objects being compared?
Epithets are brief, descriptive
phrases that helped to
characterize a person or thing.
Odysseus is referred to as “master
mariner” or “old contender”
is “swift-footed.”
The ocean becomes the
“wine-dark sea.”
How would YOU be described??!
*Why do we need
 Characterizes a person,
place or thing
 Gives story-teller
 Helps with rhyming and
I wanna be a hero! What do I
gotta do?
Epic Heroes are usually:
 larger than life figure from a history or legend
 favored by or even partially descended from deities,
but aligned more closely with mortals.
 in a cyclical journey or quest, faces adversaries that try
to defeat him in his journey, gathers allies along his
journey, and returns home significantly transformed
by his journey.
 illustrating traits, performing  recurring characters in the
deeds, and exemplifying
legends of their native culture.
certain morals that are valued
by the society from which the  Epic heroes are superhuman in
that they are smarter, stronger,
epic originates.
and braver than average
 showing cultural and religious
humans. An epic hero can also
beliefs of the people.
be a warrior of some sort who
performs extraordinary tasks
that most find difficult.
In Review:
 Epic poems are long stories about a hero who must
achieve his goal, which takes a long journey &/or a long
time, and the fate of his people relies on him to succeed.
 The larger than life hero wants to reach his goal, but he
comes across obstacles and monsters that stop him, so
the gods help him and he succeeds, which puts him back
where he started. It’s a vicious circle, I mean, cycle!
 Homeric similes are comparisons using like or as that
take a few lines to figure out because you have to see
what you know to figure out what you don’t.
In Review (Con’t)
 Epithets are short, descriptive phrases that
characterize a person or thing.
 Heroes, who are the model citizens, are almost
god-like in that they are braver, stronger, and
smarter than the average human, but their faults
are displayed throughout the epic, and they
change as a result of the journey.