Homer Odyssey – Books 9-16 Study Guide Questions

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 

his stories?

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?

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