The Ancient World (HUM 124 - UNC Asheville)/Texts/Odyssey/Characters

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Important Types of Characters In The Odyssey[edit | edit source]

There are many types of characters in stories that each play a role in how the story unfolds.

  1. First, we have the main character also known as the protagonist, who plays the hero or just the most predominate character in general. This kind of character is in the story from start to finish and is the lead for any adventures, battles and or fights, in The Odyssey the character Odysseus plays the main character.
  2. Second, we have we have the enemy better known as the antagonist. This kind of character opposes the protagonist and can be seen as the bad person in many stories. This mind of character is essential for the rise of the protagonist. In this story the overall idea of war, it is what separated Odysseus from his family and what caused him trauma. Odysseus faces many antagonists throughtout this story and on his way back home.
  3. Third, we have the stagnant or flat characters. These kind of characters are not seen as much but still play a big role in helping the story flow and helping the main character throughout his journey. There are several of these kinds of characters throughout The Odyssey.
  4. Forth, we have the dynamic and or changing character. This kind of character develops and changes during the events in the story. This character may change positively or negatively depending on the need of the story. Odysseus can be a good example of this kind of character as well. His character can be seen changing throughout the course of his journey.

Character Development[edit | edit source]

Character development normally involves the main character and how the grow or change throughout the story based on events/ experiences that challenges their original behavior and attitude. The most significant and important character development in The Odyssey is the development of Telemachus (Odysseus' son). In the start of the story Homer makes Telemachus character a shadow of his father and towards the end of the story we can see he has become stronger and may be considered just as courageous as his father. He no longer lives in the shadows and he found himself. Another good example of character development in The Odyssey is the development of Odysseus through his experiences throughout the book. With each challenge he faces and every battle he fights we are able to see growth from his character.

While Odysseus does grow throughout this book, in book 9 he does not seem to. After Odysseus has already had a hard time getting home and ran into many obstacles preventing him from getting home, towards the end of the chapter when he is fighting the Cyclopes, when he finally escapes he starts yelling back at the Cyclopes , antagonizing him. Resulting in making him more mad and him calling on Poseidon to never let Odysseus go home. That does not seem like much growth to me, it seems he has not learned a thing and is still very immature and careless.

How Male and Female Characters are Seen[edit | edit source]

Women: Each female character is different in this story, so Homer describes the women in a few ways throughout The Odyssey. The first kind of women he portrays are the disloyal, arrogant, and overall bad types of women for example, Melantho is described in this way. The second kind of women described by Homer are the women who are smart, loyal, obedient, faithful and overall good such as Penelope. The third type of women Homer describes are those who are manipulative and seductive such as Circe. Overall Homer described women in The Odyssey with social dynamics, roles, and views held of the second sex of that time. Women were normally portrayed as inferior to the men in the story and each female character helped define what the ideal woman was during this time. Another idea developed in The Odyssey that portrays the inferiority of women is the idea of men existing to conquer women. This is displayed early on in the epic, when Telemachus is struggling with the suitors who are overstaying their welcome in their pursuit of his mother. All of them think Penelope deserves to be remarried to one of them because Odysseus is gone. The interesting thing here is that it is a game between the suitors and Penelope. For example, Penelope asked to be allowed to weave a shroud before being remarried. In reality, this was a ploy intended to buy her more time. Every night, she unraveled the shroud and started from scratch so she wouldn't be remarried. However, the suitors eventually discovered her and backed her into a metaphorical corner. It is a game between cat and mouse where the suitors are the cat and Penelope is the mouse. The suitors exist to "conquer" Penelope. They stay in Telemachus's home until one of them wins, taking Penelope as his prize. Another idea developed here is the wile of women, as shown by Penelope's clever attempts to outwit the suitors. This ties into Odysseus and Circe. Circe is a seductress and exists to tempt men before tricking them. She lures Odysseus's crew in under the guise of providing them with a feast, and then turns them into pigs. Odysseus is then visited by Hermes, who explains to him what other tricks Circe might try and tells him how to overcome them. Odysseus ends up conquering Circe, both literally and metaphorically. He wins back his men and a place in her bed, further developing the idea of women being tricksters and men existing to conquer them.

Men: Men are ultimately seen as the stronger gender and this is thoroughly portrayed throughout Homer's descriptions in The Odyssey. He highlights how men are condescending towards the female characters and are never seen as the weak sex. This idea of men being stronger is also seen in the power dynamic between the gods where the gods such as Zeus and Poseidon are portrayed as being more powerful than the goddesses. The majority of the ideas and dialogue in this story revolve around that are usually primarily male such as war and sports. Overall, Homer tells his story through men's dialogue further emphasizing that men have the power.

Characters[edit | edit source]

Odysseus- The protagonist of the Odyssey. A cunning and courageous warrior. He is a favorite of Athena. and an enemy of Poseidon.

Telemachus - Odysseus' son

Penelope - Odysseus' wife and mother of Telemachus.

Athena- Daughter of Zeus. The Goddess of wisdom, battle and womanly arts. She assists Odysseus with divine powers.

Poseidon - God of the sea and Odysseus' main antagonist since he killed Poseidon's son who was a cyclopes.

Zeus - King of the gods and men.

Hades - God of the Underworld.

Antinous - One of Penelope's suitors. He was the most arrogant.

Eurymachus - Also one of Penelope's suitors.

Amohinomus - The only decent suitor that hopes for Penelope's hand.

Eumaeus - A loyal shepherd that helps Odysseus retake his kingdom.

Eurycleia - Odysseus' wet nurse and old and loyal servant.

Melanthius - A treacherous goatherd that supported Penelope's suitors and at one point unknowingly abuses Odysseus when he is disguised as a beggar.

Melantho - Melanthius' sister.

Calypso - A beautiful nymph that falls in love with Odysseus and keeps him captive for several years on the island of Ogygia.

Polyphemus - Poseidon's son, a cyclops.

Circe - A witch goddess that turns Odysseus' crew into swine. Odysseus becomes her lover and stays with her for a year living in luxury.

Laertes - Odysseus' father who lives on a farm in Ithaca.

Tiresias - A Theban prophet that lives in the underworld.

Nestor - King of Pylos, a clever speaker. He fought in the Trojan War.

Menelaus - King of Sparta, Agamemnon's brother.

Helen - Menelaus' wife, Queen of Sparta. Most famously know as Helen of Troy.

Agamemnon - Former king of Mycenae. Brother of Menelaus. A commander during the battle of Troy.

Nausicaa- Princess of the Phaeacians and the daughter of Kind Alcinous and Queen Arete.

King Alcinous- Nausiciaa's father is the current King, a Person with God given wisdom.

Queen Arete- Nausiciaa's mother spins sea purpled yarn. She is intelligent and influential.

Nausithous- Previous King of the Phaeacians

Nausiciaa's family slaves - Made all preparations for travel and washed the clothes. Then they ate and played with Princess Nausiciaa. They were initially frightened by Odysseus.