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Barron's Booknotes-The Odyssey by Homer

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BOOK 9: NEW COASTS AND POSEIDON'S SON

In the opening lines of Book 9 Odysseus at last reveals his identity. He explains that he was detained by Kalypso and by Kirke, but his loyalty to his home and Penelope was never in question because "in my heart I never gave consent." Do you accept that statement?

The closeness of life to nature in this world is shown in the encounter with the Kikones. Odysseus, the captain, cannot control his hungry men. In the world as Odysseus knows it, food comes from farming. Sunset is "unyoking time." If you're hungry, you don't go out for a fast-food hamburger. You catch, kill, butcher, cook, and eat a cow.



The greed of the men results in the loss of seventy-two of the company. "Six benches were left empty in every ship," and they started out with twelve ships. These ships have both sails and oars.

After two days of storm followed by one day of sailing followed by nine days of strong currents and high winds, the ships arrive at the land of the Lotos-Eaters. Those who eat Lotos forget their homeland and long to stay forever. Does Lotos appeal to you? These men have been through a lot-maybe Lotos stands for giving up the struggle.

NOTE: An epic hero is basically admirable, but he would be boring if he were perfect. The episode with the Kyklopes shows Odysseus at his best and worst. Sometimes a good characteristic, like curiosity, can also be a bad trait and cause a lot of trouble. The Kyklopes is not totally evil. Watch how he tends his sheep. Going about his duties in his dairy, he seems a good shepherd.

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