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Free Study Guide-The Odyssey by Homer-Free Book Notes Summary
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BOOK 6

Summary

Odysseus has arrived at Scheria, land of the Phaecians. While he sleeps, Athena visits the sleeping Nausicaa, daughter of the king, appearing to her in a dream in the semblance of one of her close friends, the daughter of a sea captain, Dymas. Hinting that Naucisicaa is soon to be married, Athena asks her to carry the palace laundry for washing in a river near the sea. Nausicaa awakens and asks her father for a wagon to carry the clothes there. He agrees, and the princess leaves with her maidens and attendants. After washing clothes, bathing themselves, and eating the midday meal, the maidens start playing ball. The ball falls into the deep, eddying current, and they raise a piercing cry, awakening Odysseus, who is sleeping nearby. He wonders whether the cries are that of wild beings or humans. As he creeps out of his shelter, all the women move away in fright, except the lovely Nausicaa. He addresses her with smooth words and asks for directions to town as well as a garment to cover himself. She answers sensibly and asks him to bathe, dress, and eat before she can take him to the city. After bathing, Odysseus looks like a god, and Nausicaa is impressed.

Nausicaa instructs him to follow her chariot until they reach a grove dedicated to Athena outside the city gates. From there, he will make his own way to her father Alcinous' house, so as not to cause gossip. She further advises him to plead to her mother Arete for help if he really wishes to make it back to his own country. They reach the grove as the sun is setting, and Odysseus stays there and prays to his protector. Though the goddess hears his prayers, she cannot appear in front of him for fear of Poseidon's wrath.

Notes

If the atmosphere in Ogygia was one of timelessness, Scheria has the brightness and some of the sorrows of youth. Nausicaa, tall, beautiful, and daughter of the king, has a dream of approaching marriage that Athena sends her. Athena appears in the shape of a friend of Nausicaa and suggests she go to the river to wash clothes. Athena wishes that this lovely girl may lead Odysseus to Phaecia. The goddess is always forming plans to help her favorite hero.


A scene of activity follows; there are clothes being washed, maidens playing ball, the ball falling into a deep eddy. The girls' cries wake the suspicious Odysseus, and Nausicaa becomes the spirited mirror of late girlhood in facing his disheveled appearance bravely. After he has washed and dressed, the princess rather ingeniously confides to her friends her feelings about the transformed man, though she later hides her secret hopes from her parents. Nausicaa has a charmingly practical mind. She describes her city with thoughtful factuality and will have Odysseus accompany her while they are still in the country but no further, since she fears gossip. Important as she is for the plot and for the mood of renewal that Odysseus will experience at Scheria, there is something more to her character. Her love for Odysseus comes to nothing, but her disappointed hope is softened by her natural health and vitality. She will someday lose her youth, as Odysseus has, but he will retain the memory of her as a youthful being. From the poem's point of view, her youth conveys what older figures like Odysseus and Penelope have moved beyond, yet remember. Nausicaa's moment of life stays only as memory, a static image in the changing narrative, touched with both sweetness and sorrow.

Odysseus, of course, displays his resourcefulness in the manner in which he addresses Nausicaa at the river. He wins her over by his charming speech. Through his words, he shows her that he appreciates her beauty and youth and indicates that he was once a man of position. His moving praise of marriage equally fits her youthful thoughts, his desire for home, and the theme of the poem. At first, his naked plight is amusing to the reader and frightening to the maidens, but his skill in extricating himself from this embarrassing situation highlights his ability to master difficult situations.

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