Od. 1-4

Study Questions for Od. 1-4

  • Bk. 1:
    The divine assembly that opens the poem clearly functions as a kind of prologue; what do we learn about the plot and the major characters?
  • This assembly has a counterpart at the beginning of Bk. 5, yet not much seems to have changed on Loympus: what other functions do these scenes preforma than simply advancing the plot?

  • Athena appears on Ithaca in the guise of Mentes, a Taphian seafaring prince who is a friend of Odysseus. (Although both names mean "inspirer" or "mentor," do not confuse this Mentes with Mentor in Bk 2 and later, an Ithacan elder.) The reception Telemachus offers the unknown stranger is both exemplary of what a good reception should be and also initiates a repeated theme of the poem--hospitality.

  • In Bk. 1 and more strongly in Bk. 3 we see a variation on this theme: 'the god comes in human disguise seeking hopsitality and learning the true nature of his people.' Compare the stories of Abraham at mamre (Gen. 18) and Lot at Sodom (Gen. 19).

    Bks. 1-4:
    The first four books of the Odyssey are sometimes referred to collectively as the Telemakheia because they focus on Telemakhos and his coming of age (a type of story known as a Bildungsroman).
    1. What is he like when we first meet him and what do you think it is that prompts his sudden change (which others notice in Bk. 2)?
    1. To get an idea of what values Telemakhos is involved in learning, you might compare (and contrast) the actions of Achilles (who, remember, is relatively young) in Iliad Bk. 1.

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