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The Odyssey of Homer

Study Questions

The following questions are offered to you as an optional guide to enhance your textual
understanding of your first classic in the course. They are designed to help you get a grasp
of the storyline and essential details as you move through each of the seven selected books.
If at any point you feel totally drawn into the world of Odysseus, and prefer not to stop at
each step to read yet another study question, do feel free to do so.

The questions on Books 1 and 2 are focused on smaller sections, with line numbers
provided so you will know where to find the answer. From Book 5 and onwards, you may
have picked up speed and confidence with your reading, and fewer and broader questions
are posed without line reference. Your teacher may or may not make use of some of these
questions in class, which will be guided mainly by the three sets of Focus Questions
given at the end of this study guide.

Book 1: Telemachus becomes a young man; Athena comes to his help

1. What do we know about the cunning hero from the opening lines? (1:1-10 [i.e., Book
1, line 1 to line 10])
2. Who is Memory and the Immortal One? (1:1; 1:13)
3. What more do we learn about the cunning hero in 1:13-27? Why does the story start
4. Poseidon, the God of the Sea, was away and the gods were meeting in the halls of Zeus,
the god of gods. Whose speeches do we hear and what did they decide to do? (1:28-102)
5. Who was Telemachus? What did he do when he saw Athena? What made him do so?
6. Telemachus showed himself to be an unhappy young man. Can you name three reasons
why? (1:155-269)
7. What did Athena advise Telemachus to do? How did he like it? (1:270-335)
8. What immediate effects did Athenas visit have on Telemachus? (1:336-447)
9. What more do we know about Telemachus as Book 1 closes? (1:448-470)

Book 2: Telemachus calls an assembly

1. As Book 2 begins, Telemachus is presented as Odysseuss son (2:2). Why is it so?
How did he look like and what did he set off to do?
2. What was the private matter (2:47) and the public disgrace (2:69) that Telemachus
spoke of? Did he make a good speech?
3. What do we know about Penelope from the speech of Antinous, one of the suitors?

4. Why is it difficult for Telemachus to settle the problem brought by his mother and the
suitors? (1:140-151)
5. What sign was sent by Zeus and how did the suitors respond to it? Do the suitors have
strong reasons for refusing to leave and continuing to court Penelope? (1:162-279)
6. Has Telemachus indeed shown himself to be Odysseuss son in this book? (1:290-

Book 5: Calypso lets Odysseus go

1. Odysseus makes his first appearance in this book. What is his image at the beginning of
the book and does this image change as the story unfolds?
2. Does Hermes carry Zeus order word-for-word to Calypso or does he adapt it for his
3. What do we know of Calypso? Is she in love with Odysseus? How do you know?
4. What choices are offered to Odysseus? Which choice does he make? Why?

Book 16: Telemachus meets Odysseus

1. Why does Telemachus stop by Eumaeus place instead of going home to his mother?
2. Has he changed his way with his mother upon his return?
3. How does he relate to his father after reuniting with him? Does the reunion help or
hamper Telemachuss growth?

Book 19: Penelope tests Odysseus

1. What kind of mistress was Penelope, according to the way she dealt with her maid?
2. According to 19:134-177, we hear for the first time the story of Penelope told in her
own words. How was life like for Penelope all these years? What more do you learn
about Penelope in these lines?
3. What happened in Penelopes dream? Why did she tell the dream to Odysseus?
4. Do you think Penelope recognize Odysseus? Why or why not?
5. Penelope is described as wary and thoughtful in line 54. Is the characterization
accurate according to the way she tested Odysseus? Or was it Odysseus who was truly
wary and thoughtful?
6. Why did Penelope propose a contest of archery at the end of the book?

Book 21: The arrow-shooting contest

1. Did Telemachus become a fully grown man in this book? What are the incidents that
support or go against such a conclusion?
2. What was the significance of stringing the bow for Telemachus and for Odysseus?
3. How would you characterize the relation between Odysseus and Telemachus?

Book 23: Penelope tests Odysseus
1. Why did Penelope refuse to believe her husband had come home?
2. What role did Telemachus try to play in the reunion between his parents? Did he
3. How did Penelope test Odysseus? From the test, who would you say was the more
cunning hero--Penelope or Odysseus?
4. What can you say about the relation between Penelope and Odysseus? What made
Odysseus come home to her?