Study Guide Questions – Discussion #2 Books 9 – 16 Reconciliations
9-12 Odysseus’ wanderings, “reconciling” Poseidon’s curse
1. Book 9 – wise leader?
Odysseus is often referred to as “wily, crafty and wise.” How wise of a leader is he in the events of Book 9 concerning the Cicones (pp. 126-127), Lotus Eaters (127), and Cyclopes (128-140)? How much of these hardships are Odysseus’ own fault? How much of these hardships are pre-determined by prophecy?
2. Book 10 – crew morale?
In Book 10, morale among Odysseus’ crew continues to decline. How do
the events of Aeolus’ bag of winds (pp. 141-143), Laestrygonians
(143-145), and Circe (145-157) contribute to the decline in morale of
the crew? What do we learn about Odysseus’ leadership and his
cleverness? Just when Odysseus is able to rescue his crew from
Circe’s bewitchment, he is notified of a very dangerous voyage he must
make to Hades. With Circe’s help, Odysseus must consult Tiresias the
prophet. Why? (see Books 10 & 11)
3. Book 11 – Hades
In Book 11, the shades/ghosts of many reveal themselves to Odysseus at
Acheron, the entrance to Hades. Before talking even to his mother
Anticleia, Odysseus makes sure to talk with Tiresias first. Then
Odysseus allows himself to talk to his mother and other famous Greek
women who appear. What is the significance to the plot of mentioning
these various Greek heroines (pp. 164-167)? As Odysseus continues to
tell of Agamemnon, Achilles and other famous Greek men, what does this
panorama of shades suggest about the Greek concept of Hades? of
Odysseus’ own fears?
4. Book 12 – Odysseus alone
How do the series of adventures in Book 12 (Sirens, Scylla, Oxen of
the Sun, Thunder & Lightning, Charybdis, Calypso) compare to the
series of adventures (Books 9-10) before Odysseus’ trip to Hades (Book
11)? Book 5 opens with Odysseus alone and Book 12 ends with Odysseus
alone. Now that Odysseus has come full circle in his flashbacks, what
is the relatonship between Odysseus and his crew? How are Odysseus’
feelings compounded by the lack of a crew?
13-16 Odysseus’ return to his native land, “reconciling” with Telemachus
5. Book 13 – Ithaka
In Book 13, Poseidon is not happy with the Phaeacians for conveying
Odysseus home safely. Given what happens to the Phaeacians in
response to Poseidon’s feelings, how is this action just? What does
Zeus think about it? Why does Zeus have anything to do with this?
Athena appears to Odysseus as he wakes up on his own island. What
part does she play in helping Odysseus? As clever as Odysseus is, why
would Athena’s help be necessary at this stage of the epic?
6. Book 14 – Hospitality revisted?
In what ways does Book 14 illustrate the ancient custom of
hospitality? How does hospitality in this chapter compare with the
hospitality of the Phaeacians (Books 8-13) or Nestor (Book 3) or
Menelaus (Books 4 & 15)? In Book 14, Odysseus tells two long tales
about both his origin and an incident with a cloak during the Trojan
War. His stories are inspired by Athena, the goddess of wisdom. How
does Odysseus balance the level of fiction with the level of truth in
7. Book 15 – Piety
In Book 15, both Odysseus’ and Telemachus’ piety (i.e. duty to the
gods) is revealed in auguries (or bird signs). How do the auguries
support the intertwining of Odysseus’ and Telemachus’ lives? How does
Telemachus’ piety show with respect to Theoclymenus? How does
Eumaeus’ piety show with respect to Odysseus? According to Greek
thinking, is Telemachus’ and Odysseus’ reunion left to chance in any
way? In many ways, this book is about origins. Why do you suppose
Homer chose this moment to unveil Eumaeus’ origin, Theoclymenus’
origin and even information about Odysseus’ father, Laertes and
mother, Anticleia? What do Eumaeus’ and Theoclymenus’ stories tell us
about nobility as an inner quality or characteristic of a person?
8. Book 16 – Telemachus and Odysseus
As dawn breaks at the opening of Book 16, Telemachus arrives safely to
the swineherd’s hut. Before the day is over, he will be re-united
with his father Odysseus. Having been only an infant when Odysseus
left for Troy, how does Telemachus recognize his father? Why then
does he still doubt his senses? (see pp. 245-246). How is Penelope’s
character defined in this book? Ignorant of Odysseus’ return, what do
Penelope’s actions reveal about her situation with the suitors? How
does Eurymachus’ pretending contrast with Penelope’s honesty about the
situation? By the end of the day, Eumaeus returns to his hut and
Telemachus asks about the plot against him by the suitors. How do
Telemachus’ and Odysseus’ pretending contrast with Eumaeus’ honesty
about the situation?