Ten years have passed since the fall of Troy, and the Greek hero Odysseus still has not returned to his kingdom in Ithaca. A large and rowdy mob of suitors who have overrun Odysseus’s palace and pillaged his land continue to court his wife, Penelope. She has remained faithful to Odysseus. Prince Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, wants desperately to throw them out but does not have the confidence or experience to fight them. One of the suitors, Antinous, plans to assassinate the young prince, eliminating the only opposition to their dominion over the palace.
Unknown to the suitors, Odysseus is still alive. The beautiful nymph Calypso, possessed by love for him, has imprisoned him on her island, Ogygia. He longs to return to his wife and son, but he has no ship or crew to help him escape. While the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus debate Odysseus’s future, Athena, Odysseus’s strongest supporter among the gods, resolves to help Telemachus. Disguised as a friend of the prince’s grandfather, Laertes, she convinces the prince to call a meeting of the assembly at which he reproaches the suitors. Athena also prepares him for a great journey to Pylos and Sparta, where the kings Nestor and Menelaus, Odysseus’s companions during the war, inform him that Odysseus is alive and trapped on Calypso’s island. Telemachus makes plans to return home, while, back in Ithaca, Antinous and the other suitors prepare an ambush to kill him when he reaches port.
On Mount Olympus, Zeus sends Hermes to rescue Odysseus from Calypso. Hermes persuades Calypso to let Odysseus build a ship and leave. The homesick hero sets sail, but when Poseidon, god of the sea, finds him sailing home, he sends a storm to wreck Odysseus’s ship. Poseidon has harbored a bitter grudge against Odysseus since the hero blinded his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, earlier in his travels. Athena intervenes to save Odysseus from Poseidon’s wrath, and the beleaguered king lands at Scheria, home of the Phaeacians. Nausicaa, the Phaeacian princess, shows him to the royal palace, and Odysseus receives a warm welcome from the king and queen. When he identifies himself as Odysseus, his hosts, who have heard of his exploits at Troy, are stunned. They promise to give him safe passage to Ithaca, but first they beg to hear the story of his adventures.
Odysseus spends the night describing the fantastic chain of events leading up to his arrival on Calypso’s island. He recounts his trip to the Land of the Lotus Eaters, his battle with Polyphemus the Cyclops, his love affair with the witch-goddess Circe, his temptation by the deadly Sirens, his journey into Hades to consult the prophet Tiresias, and his fight with the sea monster Scylla. When he finishes his story, the Phaeacians return Odysseus to Ithaca, where he seeks out the hut of his faithful swineherd, Eumaeus. Though Athena has disguised Odysseus as a beggar, Eumaeus warmly receives and nourishes him in the hut. He soon encounters Telemachus, who has returned from Pylos and Sparta despite the suitors’ ambush, and reveals to him his true identity. Odysseus and Telemachus devise a plan to massacre the suitors and regain control of Ithaca.
When Odysseus arrives at the palace the next day, still disguised as a beggar, he endures abuse and insults from the suitors. The only person who recognizes him is his old nurse, Eurycleia, but she swears not to disclose his secret. Penelope takes an interest in this strange beggar, suspecting that he might be her long-lost husband. Quite crafty herself, Penelope organizes an archery contest the following day and promises to marry any man who can string Odysseus’s great bow and fire an arrow through a row of twelve axes—a feat that only Odysseus has ever been able to accomplish. At the contest, each suitor tries to string the bow and fails. Odysseus steps up to the bow and, with little effort, fires an arrow through all twelve axes. He then turns the bow on the suitors. He and Telemachus, assisted by a few faithful servants, kill every last suitor.
Odysseus reveals himself to the entire palace and reunites with his loving Penelope. He travels to the outskirts of Ithaca to see his aging father, Laertes. They come under attack from the vengeful family members of the dead suitors, but Laertes, reinvigorated by his son’s return, successfully kills Antinous’s father and puts a stop to the attack. Zeus dispatches Athena to restore peace. With his power secure and his family reunited, Odysseus’s long ordeal comes to an end.
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