Activities for Homer's Odyssey

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

Read through the Homer Study Guide and all of the Activities below before making your selection. Make a copy of the Activity question to begin your response. Post your Activity to the Blackboard Activity 3: Homer Forum. Title your entry, "Activity 3."

Athena is Odysseus' patron deity; he is her favorite human being. Look at some of the scenes in the Odyssey where they interact and describe their relationship in some detail, giving specific examples from more than one book of the Odyssey.
Look at the various warnings about what Clytemnestra did to Agamemnon, especially in Books XI and XXIV (the underworld scenes. Then review the dangers and violence of Odysseus' homecoming, and think about how Odysseus approached Penelope and how he hanged the traitorous serving girls (Book XXII). Do you think Homer's audience accepted that the girls deserved to be killed? How do you feel about the scene personally? Does it give you any insights into the concepts of right and wrong in Homer's day and how those concepts might be different than in our time? Give specific examples from more than one book in the Odyssey to support your ideas.
List several of the women, mortal and divine in the Odyssey and write a brief description of each one. Finally, write a paragraph or two summing up Homer's ideas about the roles of women in the Odyssey--what they are like and how they are treated.
Later civilizations disapproved of Homer because "he told lies about the gods." Look in the Odyssey for some of these "lies." List and describe several of them. Do you think Homer actually believed in gods such as he sang about? If so, do you think he was being impious to his gods? Why or why not? Support your position with specific examples from the Odyssey.
Why does Odysseus go to Hades and what does he learn there? Go into plenty of detail, using specific examples from Book 11 to support your ideas.
Compare Odysseus to a modern hero. The modern hero may be a fighter, a ruler, a leader, or an athlete; he may be real or fictional. Write a brief biography of each hero, looking at the specifics of his family life, beliefs, friendships, activities, heroic behaviors, etc. Then, explain how each hero affects the society he lives in and how people feel about him. Finally, what are the most interesting differences between your two heroes and so what?
Go to Bronze Age Images. Look through the various images and select three that might actually have existed in the world of the Odyssey. Describe each image and explain exactly where in the Odyssey you would expect to find it, who would use it, own it, live in it, etc., and what you could learn about the Odyssey from seeing the image. Support your ideas with specific examples from the Odyssey and from the images.
Go to the Homer Web Site and look at several images of the Trojan War. Select three which deal with the events of the Odyssey. Describe each image and compare it to the corresponding scene in the Odyssey. How has the artist interpreted the characters, events, etc.? Do you agree with the artist's interpretation? Why or why not? Explain using specific examples to support your points.
Go to the Homer Web Site and scroll down to the section on the Troy Cycle. Look at the list of Troy epics and the characters and plot of the overall Troy Cycle to get a feeling for the mythic context of the Odyssey. Now think about the relations of gods and humans in the Odyssey. Select two interesting scenes where gods and humans interact. Describe each scene in some detail and explain its role in the overall story. Do you think these gods were any more or less real to Homer than the heroes? Why or why not? Support your ideas with specific examples from the Odyssey.
Go to Bulfinch's Mythology and look up the stories of two or three major gods and/or heroes from the Odyssey. Now select one or more specific scenes in the Odyssey that can be better understood after reading about the characters' mythological roles. Explain the way the mythology helps you to understand each scene, using specific details from both Bullfinch and the Odyssey to support your ideas.
Review the scenes in Hades in Books 11 and 24 of the Odyssey. What can you learn about Homer's conception of life after death from reading them? Use specific examples to support your insights.
Odysseus has relationships with a number of women. List these women and then compare how he relates to different ones. Be sure to include Kirke (a witch) and Nausicaa (a nice young princess) in your list. Can you learn anything about Odysseus from how he relates to these different women? Use specific examples from the story to support your points.
Pick the character in the Odyssey that you think is the most "monstrous" and explain just what you find monstrous about him/her/it, and why. Be sure to use specific, detailed examples from the story to support your discussion.
Odysseus survives many ordeals that kill his men, such as the Kyklops, Skylla and Charybdis, and the final shipwreck. Discuss Odysseus as a leader of his men. Why do you think he survives while his followers do not? Support your discussion with examples from the story.
Look at Book 1 of the Odyssey, where Athena and Zeus discuss human behavior, Odysseus, and justice. Now look at the Book of Job, where God and Satan arrange to test Job to satisfy Satan's cynical curiosity about Job's goodness. Compare divine attitudes toward human beings in Job and in The Odyssey, noting what similarities there are, if any, and what differences. Support your observations with specific examples from both narratives.
Samuel Butler and Robert Graves both believed that the Odyssey had been written by a woman. Robert Graves wrote a novel, Homer's Daughter, about Nausicaa, the woman who composed the Odyssey. Get a copy of this novel, read it, and then write an essay explaining whether or not you agree that a woman could have written the Odyssey. Support your ideas with plenty of examples from both the novel and the Odyssey. Worth double credit if very well done.
One of the themes explored in The Odyssey is that of the passage from adolescence to adulthood. Construct a character analysis of Telemachus with careful consideration of his development from boy to man. Consider the role of Athena (Mentor) in this development as well as the effects of his father's long absence. (Contributed by Diane Wakely-Park)


(c) Diane Thompson: 8/3/98; updated: 04/06/2011