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Free Study Guide-The Odyssey by Homer-Free Book Notes Summary
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Set in ancient Greece, The Odyssey is about the hero Odysseus' long-awaited return from the Trojan War to his homeland, Ithaca, after ten years of wandering. The current action of The Odyssey occupies the last six weeks of the ten years, and the narrative includes many places - Olympus, Ithaca, Pylos, Pherae, Sparta, Ogygia, and Scheria. In Books 9-12, Odysseus narrates the story of his travels in the years after the fall of Troy, and this narrative includes other far-flung places, such as the island of the Cyclops. The main action of the poem takes place in Ithaca, after a disguised Odysseus reaches there in Book 13. In Books 13 to 24, Odysseus is slowly reunited with his family and takes revenge on the suitors that have been wooing his wife and wasting his property.


Major Characters


The protagonist and hero of the poem. Odysseus is the King of Ithaca, a small, rugged island on the western coast of Greece. He takes part in the Trojan War on the side of Agamemnon. Of all the heroes who return from the war, his homeward voyage is the longest and most perilous. Although Odysseus is in many ways a typical Homeric hero, he is not perfect, and his very human flaws play an important role in the work.


The "much-enduring" wife of Odysseus and the patient mother of Telemachus. If travel is Odysseus' test, staying home is Penelope's. She keeps home and family intact until Odysseus can return to claim his rights. The suffering she undergoes and the tricks that she employs to keep her suitors at bay bear testimony to her power of endurance and love for her son and husband.


Odysseus' son. A mere child when his father left for the Trojan War, Telemachus is, at the beginning of The Odyssey, an inexperienced, unhappy, and helpless young man. His travels in search of his father help him to mature, and, on Odysseus' return, he fulfills his duties, as the son of a hero should.


The goddess of wisdom and the daughter of Zeus. She is Odysseus' champion amongst the gods, and she aids him and Telemachus throughout the poem, displaying great tact, intelligence, and cleverness in all her endeavors.

Minor Characters


The King of Pylos. He had fought on the side of Agamemnon in the Trojan War. When Telemachus sails off to find news of Odysseus, he first visits Nestor at Pylos. Nestor contributes very little to Telemachus' knowledge of his father, though he is generous and helpful.


The King of Sparta. The Trojan War was fought to rescue his wife, Helen, who was abducted by Paris. In The Odyssey, both husband and wife are back at Sparta. An old friend of Odysseus, Menelaus welcomes Telemachus into his home.


The wife of Menelaus and the cause of the Trojan War. Helen's portrayal is more striking than that of Menelaus. She is back with Menelaus at Sparta, happy and at peace, having learned from her sufferings. The tenderness which she possesses in The Iliad is turned to new purposes here in The Odyssey.


The most vociferous and proud of the suitors. He plots Telemachus' death and often leads the suitors in their mistreatment of Odysseus and his household.


Another outspoken and powerful suitor. In Book 22, he begs Odysseus for forgiveness on behalf of all the suitors.

Athena in the disguise of Mentes

In the first Book, Athena encourages Telemachus to go in search of news about his father. She does this in the guise of Mentes, ruler of the Taphians.


One of the noble Ithacans. He speaks first at the assembly called by Telemachus in Book 2.


An Ithacan soothsayer. He is one of the few Ithacans in the assembly who remain loyal to Odysseus.


Another Ithacan who is loyal to Odysseus. When Odysseus departed, he had given charge of his house to this man. Athena often disguises herself as Mentor in order to aid Odysseus and Telemachus.


One of the contemptible, villainous suitors who voices his opinion often.


The son of Nestor and Telemachus' companion for much of his travels.

Echephron, Stratius, Perseus, Aretus, Thrasymedes

The other five sons of Nestor at Gerenia, who help their father in looking after the guest,Telemachus.


Nestor's wife, eldest of the daughters of Clymenus.


The youngest daughter of Nestor. She bathes Telemachus when he stays at her father's house in Pylos.


Son of Orsilochus and ruler of Pherae. Telemachus and Peisistratus stop at his place for the night on their way to and from Sparta.

Lord Elconeus

The squire of Menelaus. He announces the arrival of Telemachus and Peisistratus to his king.


Another squire of Menelaus. He helps to look after Telemachus and Peisistratus at Sparta.

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