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Critical Essay On The Odyssey

Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for The Odyssey by Homer that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in The Odyssey by Homer and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of The Odyssey in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from The Odyssey by Homer, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

Be sure to also check out the Paperstarter entry on The Iliad, also by Homer

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Like Father, Like Son : Father & Son Relationships in “The Odyssey”

The main character of The Odyssey is Odysseus, a man of advancing age who has earned the glory and hero worship of his people in response to his acts of valor in defending Ithaca's honor. Odysseus is the model of ideal manhood, and he is admired far and wide for his intelligence, skill, and demeanor. A character who becomes increasingly important over the course of the tale, however, is Odysseus's son, Telemachus. Like Odysseus, Telemachus is undertaking his own journey in an important sub-plot to Odysseus's return voyage to Ithaca. By examining this sub-plot and the character and trials of Telemachus, the reader is able to predict how Ithaca will go on once Odysseus dies. Telemachus is clearly following in his father's footsteps, and Ithaca will be in good hands. Furthermore, for a long essay on The Odyssey, consider the nature of father and son relationships in The Odyssey by Homer and consider this essay topic in the context of Greek society. For further information on this potential thesis statement for The Odyssey, check out this article.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2 The Role of Women in The Odyssey

Although women occupied an entirely different position in society compared to men, they too held a certain sphere of influence and power; they simply exerted it in ways that were distinct from men's strategies. By examining the character of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, one can see just how women exerted their power and influence in The Odyssey and to what ends. Penelope uses clever cunning and sexual charm to toy with men's emotions and to meet her own needs while she is waiting for her husband to return from battle. The types of strategies and her relative success in using them will be examined in this essay. For help with this essay topic, check out this article on the role of women in the Odyssey.

Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #3: The Importance of Hospitality in “The Odyssey”

One might wonder why it takes Odysseus ten years to return to his homeland after he has achieved victory for Ithaca in the Trojan War. One of the reasons that his return journey is so long is that he is subject to the obligation of accepting the welcoming hospitality of people he meets along his path. Hospitality is an important part of social exchange, honor, and the negotiation of relationships in The Odyssey. This essay will examine several episodes of hospitality to comment upon the varied functions of cordiality in Homer's society. For more information on this topic, check out this article comparing the theme of hospitality in The Odyssey and in the medieval text, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Defining The Odyssey as an Epic

The Odyssey is typically classified as an epic, but the general reader may not identify all of the elements that justify this categorization. The Odyssey is indeed an epic because it meets several criteria of the genre. First, the epic revolves around a heroic journey that is filled with obstacles to overcome. Second, the narrative style is elaborate and characterized by an admiring tone, which underscores the hero's worthiness. Finally, The Odyssey is filled with mentions of supernatural or mysterious forces that influence the outcome of certain challenging episodes. In this essay, each of these three epic characteristics will be examined at greater length, and their significance to the overall framework of the narrative will be discussed.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5: The Functions of Disguise in “The Odyssey”

Throughout The Odyssey the reader notices that different characters adopt disguises to either facilitate or complicate their own or another's passage through the world. In fact, some characters take on multiple disguises over the course of the tale. The goddess Athena, for example, takes on no fewer than three guises. It is not only gods and goddesses who take on disguises, however. Odysseus also negotiates the power of disguise to advance his goals and objectives. By comparing and contrasting the characters' varied use of disguises, the writer will explain how disguise functions not only for pragmatic purposes, but for psychological motives as well.

Here are a few links to some great articles on a few of the thesis statements for “The Odyssey” by Homer that might be of assistance: The Development of the Character Telemakhos in The Odyssey : Father and Son and Family Relationships in The Odyssey by Homer : The Narrow Role of Women The Odyssey by Homer : Hospitality in The Odyssey and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight : Food Imagery and Temptation in The Odyssey

Be sure to also check out the Paperstarter entry on The Iliad, also by Homer

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Odyssey is undoubtedly the most popular epic of Western culture. Its chief character, Odysseus, or Ulysses, inspired more literary works than any other legendary hero. From Homer to James Joyce, Nikos Kazantzakis, and after, Odysseus has been a central figure in European literature, and one who has undergone many sea changes. Odyssey has the ingredients of a perennial best seller: pathos, sexuality, violence; a strong, resourceful hero with a firm purpose braving many dangers and hardships to accomplish it; a romantic account of exploits in strange places; a more or less realistic approach to characterization; a soundly constructed plot; and an author with a gift for description. It is, in fact, one of the greatest adventure stories of all time.

Of the poet, or poets, who wrote the poem there is only conjecture. Tradition says that Homer lived in Chios or Smyrna in Ionia, a part of Asia Minor, and it is probable that he, or whoever composed this epic, did so late in the eighth century b.c.e.Odyssey was originally sung or recited, as is evident from its style and content, and it was based on legend, folk tale, and free invention, forming part of a minstrel tradition similar to that of the Middle Ages.

The style of the poem is visual, explanatory, repetitive, and stately. Like Iliad (c. 750 b.c.e.; English translation, 1611), the work uses extended similes and repeated epithets, phrases, and sentences. Homer, whoever he was, wanted his audience to visualize and understand everything that happened. He grasped the principles of rhetoric, and he composed in a plain, direct fashion that possesses great eloquence and dignity.

Homer also mastered certain crucial problems of organization. When the audience knows the story that is going to be told, as Homer’s did, it becomes necessary to introduce diversions from the main action, to delay the climax as long as possible. In this manner the leisurely development of the plot stirs anticipation and gives the climactic scene redoubled force. However, the intervening action must have interest on its own and must have a bearing on the main action. Odyssey shows remarkable ability on all of these counts.

If the subject of Iliad is the wrath of Achilles during the Trojan War, the subject of Odyssey is the homecoming of Odysseus ten years after the Trojan War ends. The immediate action of the poem takes place in no more than a few weeks, dramatizing the very end of Odysseus’s wanderings and his restoration of order at home. Homer allows Odysseus to narrate his earlier adventures, from the sack of Troy to his confinement on Calypso’s island, which extends the magnitude of the poem. Moreover, through Nestor and Menelaus, Homer places Odysseus’s homecoming into the wider context of the returns of all the major heroes from Troy, most of which were disastrous. Thus the epic has a sweeping scope condensed into a very brief span of time.

The Telemachy (the first four books dealing with the travels and education of Telemachus) sets the stage for Odysseus’s return. The gods make the arrangements, and then the audience is shown the terrible situation in Odysseus’s palace, where the suitors are devouring Odysseus’s substance, bullying his son, and growing impatient with Penelope. They intend to kill Odysseus if he should ever return, and they arrange an ambush to kill Telemachus. Their radical abuse of hospitality is contrasted with the excellent relations between guest and host when Telemachus goes to visit Nestor and then Menelaus. In an epic whose theme is travel, the auxiliary theme must be the nature of hospitality. In Odysseus’s journeys, his best host is Alcinoüs and his worst is the savage Cyclops.

At first Telemachus is a disheartened young man trying to be hospitable in a house where it is impossible. Then Athena, as Mentes, puts pluck into him with the idea that his long-lost father is alive and detained. Telemachus calls an assembly to state his grievances and then undertakes a hazardous trip to learn of his father. He plainly has the makings of a hero, and he proves himself his father’s true son when he helps slay the rapacious suitors, after displaying some tact and cunning of his own.

Odysseus is the model of the worldly, well-traveled, persevering man who overcomes obstacles. He has courage, stamina, and power, but his real strength lies in his brain, which is shrewd, quick-witted, diplomatic, and resourceful. He is also eloquent and persuasive. He needs all of these qualities to survive and make his way home. His mettle is tested at every turn, either by dangers or temptations to remain in a place. Calypso even offers him immortality, but he is steadfast in his desire to return home. Athena may intercede for him with Zeus and aid and advise him, yet the will to return and the valor in doing so are those of Odysseus alone. The one thing Odysseus finds truly unbearable in his travels was stasis, being stranded for seven years, even though he has an amorous nymph for company.

However, a good deal of the tale is taken up with Odysseus’s preparations, once he arrives at Ithaca, for killing the suitors. The point is that the suitors are the most formidable enemy Odysseus encounters, since they number well over a hundred and only he and Telemachus are there to face them. It is here that his strategic and tactical cunning is truly needed; the previous wanderings were merely a long prologue to this climactic exploit. Coming after nine chapters in which nothing much happens, the killing of the suitors and their henchmen and maids is stunning in its exulting, deliberate violence. The house of Odysseus is at last purged of its predators, and the emotions of the audience are restored to an equilibrium.

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