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The Odyssey: Summary with quotes

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The main character of Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus, is a cunning man. The Odyssey is a tale of Odysseus’ long and trying journey home after fighting in the Trojan War. On his way home, he upsets Poseidon, god of the sea, by blinding Poseidon’s son. In retaliation, Poseidon strives to make Odysseus’ sail home to his kingdom as hard as it can be. During this odyssey, Odysseus’ encounters many enemies and must use his cunning to keep himself and his men alive.

When first setting off from Troy, Odysseus and his men find themselves at the island of the Cyclopes. While seeking shelter, Odysseus and a few of his men find a cave inhabited by a Cyclopes named Polyphemus. When the Cyclopes returns Odysseus gives his name as Nobody. When the men ask for food and shelter, Polyphemus immediately kills one of them. Realizing that him and his men are in grave danger, Odysseus gets the Cyclopes drunk and punctures his eye while he is sleeping. When the men escape, Polyphemus tells his fellow Cyclopes, ” ‘Nobody, friends…Nobody’s killing me now by fraud and not by force’ ” (Pg. 224). The other Cyclopes disregard his tantrum immediately and Odysseus makes a safe escape.

When Odysseus finally returns home, he arrives at the house of his swineherd. While disguised as a beggar Odysseus creates a false identity to test the swineherd for loyalty to his king.

“I hail from Crete’s broad land, I’m proud to say, and I am a rich man’s son. And many other sons he brought up in his palace, born in wedlock, sprung of his lawful wife. Unlike my mother. She was a slave, a concubine he’d purchased, yes, but he treated me on par with all his true-born sons- Castor, Hylax’ son…” (Pg. 308)

By doing this, Odysseus can figure who in his kingdom is loyal and trustworthy without disclosing his real identity.

The suitors that infested his house would have killed him immediately had he returned home, so Odysseus went home disguised as a beggar to get into his house. As he resides in the house, he receives a lot of physical abuse from the suitors who are unaware of his true identity. Odysseus devises a plan, with the help of his son Telemachus and others, to kill the suitors who are devouring his fortune. “…I’ll give you a nod, and when you catch that signal round up all the deadly weapons kept in the hall, stow them away upstairs in a storeroom’s deep recess…” (Pg. 347) This allowed Odysseus and his companions to initiate an attack on the defenseless suitors.

Odysseus is told by Circe that during the final leg of the voyage home, he will encounter one of two horrible sea monsters. One of the monsters has the power to destroy his whole ship, the other, cannot destroy the ship but will take six men from the deck. Odysseus knows that if he tells his shipmates about the creatures, they will be too afraid and refuse to row. Odysseus tells his crew about the sirens they will encounter, but leaves out the details of the two monsters. ” ‘Friends…it’s wrong for only one or two to know the revelations that lovely Circe made to me alone. I’ll tell you all, so we can die with our eyes wide open now or escape our fate and certain death together…’ ” (Pg. 276)

The hope of eventually reaching his kingdom and his family was one of the things that allowed Odysseus to get home, but without his cunning, Odysseus never would have made it back to his kingdom of Ithaca.

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