I read The Odyssey when I was in high school, but I didn’t recall much about it. If you aren’t familiar with it, here are some basic facts of the story. Please note that I’m not an expert, and these are only preliminary thoughts after having read the poem twice in the course of my life.
Tomorrow morning, I will share my thoughts on reading the Robert Fagles translation of The Odyssey.
Who What When Where Why
Who are the main characters in The Odyssey? Odysseus, his wife Penelope, and his son Telemachus
What is going on the beginning of The Odyssey? Odysseus is trapped by the nymph Calypso, suitors want to marry Penelope, and Telemachus wants to find his father
When does The Odyssey take place? Seven years after the Trojan war ended
Where does The Odyssey take place? The island of Ithaca, mainland Greece, and various isles of the sea
Why is there a story in The Odyssey? Because Odysseus has been through a long journey
Some of Odysseus’s story is discussed by the gods in the heavens, discussion spearheaded by Athena, who pities Odysseus in his long struggles. An omniscient narrator also tells of the events on the isle of Ithaca, where Penelope mourns for her lost husband. Likewise, the narrator follows Telemachus through his journeys to mainland Greece in search of Odysseus. Finally, the narrator also follows Odysseus on the last stages of his journey, where he narrates his tale in full to an audience and then reunites with his family.
So What Is The Odyssey About?
The Odyssey is certainly about Odysseus and his journey home from Troy. But it’s also about his family, reunion with loved ones, and revenge for his suffering. The themes of family, reunions, and revenge are general ones. Ultimately, I think The Odyssey is also about happy endings.
Odysseus’s journey is everyman’s journey. For example, he has, you could say, pretty foolish coworkers, and those coworkers get him in to trouble. He just wants to be home with his wife, and she just wants to be with him. It’s pretty hard to get there. Every time he thinks he’s going to make it, something else comes up. As we follow his struggles and his frustrations, we relate to him. We may not understand ancient Greece, but the themes do resonate.
I’m not an expert; these are just my superficial thoughts. What do you think The Odyssey is about?