The Odyssey

This is part of Diane’s Literature Course II Series

We’ve finished The Odyssey and my girls enjoyed it. I’m happy to have helped each of them complete her first time through. Now that they are familiar with the characters and events, something deeper can be gleaned from each successive reading. Is it too optimistic to hope there will be such readings?  

I think that, unless you read The Odyssey aloud with students or have several class periods in which to discuss assigned segments, it’s difficult to get too deeply into the book on the first read. There is simply too much to cover in three or four sessions. I could have devoted a quarter or a semester to it, but that isn’t in the plan this year. I just wanted to get them acquainted with the story.  

In our discussions, an aspect we noted in particular was how, with each incident on Odysseus’ journey home, a tragedy was precipitated by hubris or foolishness. One of the first pieces of information Homer gives us is that Odysseus “could not save his companions, hard though he strove to; they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness.”  

Homer says the sailors were fools. We noted that the foolishness of Odysseus and his men encompassed most, if not all, of the Seven Deadly Sins; pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth.  

Through each of the trials of the journey home, Odysseus is often warned of the coming temptations beforehand. He warns his men. He takes precautions, such as stopping his ears with wax before hearing the call of the Sirens. Yet, he loses men at each encounter, and barely makes it home himself.  

The list of topics we could have chosen for discussion is endless. The Odyssey has been more than adequately analyzed by countless people more qualified than I. This time around, I asked the girls to write their essays on the subject of temptation.       

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