The Ancient World (HUM 124 - UNC Asheville)/Texts/Odyssey/Plot and Narration

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Plot[edit | edit source]

The Plot of The Odyssey is based on Odysseus's 10 year long journey to return home to his kingdom of Ithaca after the Trojan War. Odysseus battles mythological creatures and faces challenges put in his path by the gods. His wife Penelope and son Telemachus fight off suitors fighting for Penelope's hand and the throne to Ithaca based of the assumption that Odysseus dead in the Trojan War.

The story starts with Telemachus` living in Ithaca, running from the suitors (who want him dead) and traveling throughout the islands of Greece with Athena, asking for the fate of his dad. Athena prepares him for their journey, then some of Odysseus's friends tell Telemachus that his father is alive. Hearing this information Telemachus begins to plan to return to Ithaca. Odysseus leaves Calypso's Island with help from Zeus and Hermes, and sails for home, but Poseidon finds out that Odysseus is running for it and wrecks his raft. We find out that the reason for Poseidon destroying his raft is because Odysseus harmed Poseidon's son, Polyphemus. Thankfully, Athena saves Odysseus. Then, Athena guides him to Scheria, where Odysseus meets up with the princess Nausicaa, and she takes him to the king and queen. They offer to send him home, but they ask Odysseus to tell his story first. Odysseus tells the king and queen the story of his travels after the Trojan war. The events are (in no particular order). How he went to the land of the lotus eaters, fought a couple of sea monster, had an unfortunate pig based encounter with Circe (who is the real good guy here), had an unfortunate siren incident, and blinded a cyclops, Polyphemus. The cyclops was a son of Poseidon, so Poseidon trying to take revenge on Odysseus, hence the constant storms. After finishing the story Odysseus finally makes it home and disguises himself as beggar. He finds Telemachus and reveals his real identity and they come up with a plan to eliminate the suitors. Soon after the 'beggar's' arrival Penelope takes interest in him, suspecting it is her long lost husband. She sets up an archery contest. Odysseus then defeats all the suitors and kills them all. Odysseus reveals himself and basically everyone lives happily ever after.

The Plot, though told in non chronological order, the main idea is for Odysseus to return to Ithaca.

Narration[edit | edit source]

The Odyssey was made to be narrated aloud by a poet or a singer as entertainment in ancient times. Since time has passed and printing has occurred the epic is now been translated from oral form to written form. In terms of the textual narration, the epic is written in third person. The narrator is not a character but instead an omniscient being who has insight into all events and thoughts of the characters. This omniscience is seen when the audience is told of conversations between the Gods, and when Odysseus' fate is mentioned. There are a few partial exceptions to the prevalent third person narration. In books 9 through 12 Odysseus takes over for the narrator. Every once in a while first person narration occurs but for most of the Epic the third person is used. Narration as a plot device aids to round out the audience's understand of events that a single narrator could not be present for. As mentioned earlier, conversations between the God's take place. The audience knowing what the God's are planning, but not the main characters, can add suspense and intrigue.

Non-Linear Plot[edit | edit source]

It is notable that the plot of The Odyssey starts "In Medias Res," also known as "In the middle of a narrative." Throughout the story of "The Odyssey", many tales are told about Odysseus' adventure home as well as Telemachus trying to discover what happened to his father. However, as each experience is told, they are often times told out of order. Sometimes when a specific event is being told, it is being recalled by Odysseus in a flashback, such as the time he was at Phaeacia and was telling the story of how he killed the cyclops. Not only were we taking a look back in time to what had already happened, but that is also when we learn that the cyclops is Poseidon's son and that is why Poseidon is so upset with Odysseus. We already knew that Poseidon was trying to prevent Odysseus from returning home earlier in the story, but it was not until this point in the plot that we realized why this was happening. Additionally, the story bounces around from Telemachus to Odysseus and back again, and these jumps from different perspectives do not always happen chronologically. When Telemachus is talking to Menelaus at his palace, we do not know if Odysseus is still with Calypso, but we do know that this was after Odysseus' encounter with the cyclops, yet the chapter that talks about the Cyclops is not until later in the book. Many other examples of flashbacks and breaks in the plot show up throughout the book, an example being when Eumaeus' origin story is being told, the story goes way back in time to before any of Odysseus' trouble has started.