June 06, 2007

Review:The Odyssey

Penelope and the Suitors, 1912, Waterhouse

The Odyssey
by Homer
translated by Robert Fitzgerald

After all the glorified gore in The Iliad, with it's entrails and dragging bodies around, I was so much more pleased to read The Odyssey. There was some violence and macho, male bawdiness, but ultimately it was the action-packed story of a man desperate to see his beloved wife and son again; and the son in search of his honorable father and justice for his family name. There is storyline enough to keep you reading and adventure enough to make it interesting. The emotion is immense.

I am familiar with the story, having read children's versions in our homeschool, but I appear to be the only one in the US not made to read it in high school. I probably would have hated it then, both the story and the size of the tome. I am grateful to have read it during a time in my life when learning and big books are both a pleasure and a necessity for me.

One thing I was surprised at was the lack of story about the Trojan Horse. It is not at all in The Iliad and is only mentioned a couple of times in passing in The Odyssey. Yet this is arguably the most famous image associated with Odysseus. In fact, the victory over Troy is not a focus at all. It seems odd that after the very long narrative of the 9th year of the Trojan War in The Iliad that there would not be more to the story of how the war was won in this next installment. But both epics are more about the emotions of the characters and the involvement of the gods in the lives of men. Honor and courage, strength and beauty; these are the main themes.

In January I listed some reading goals for the year. This fulfills the top 3 goals of reading more poetry, history and classics. I have the book The Penelopiad to read next but I'm a bit anxious about it. I have so thoroughly enjoyed Odysseus' character and his journey that I am jealous to keep this image of him in my mind. I also have Greek Lyrics, translated by Richard Lattimore, on it's way from the library. I will not be leaving the ancient history period to soon.


MyUtopia said...

I read Atwoods Penelopiad, the Iliad from Penelope's perspective. It was really interesting.

Darla D said...

I felt exactly the same way when I went from reading the Iliad to the Odyssey - at last an interesting story without all the blood & guts.

Another one you might enjoy is Homer's Daughter by Robert Graves. I had to go back and re-read The Odyssey after I read it!

Nymeth said...

I liked The Penelopiad, but the way Odysseus is portrayed is indeed not very nice.

I really need to read The Odyssey one of these days. I should do what you did - make a goal of reading it this year, and then not let anything stop me.

Carl V. said...

I'm impressed. Both are books I have always wanted to read but haven't worked up the courage or taken the time to do so! Kudos to you.

(and btw, a little friend is FINALLY coming your way. Sorry about the delay)

Petunia said...

Myutopia-I am interested in how the Penelopiad will turn out. It sounds intriguing.

Thanks for the recommendation Darla. I'll add the title to my TBR list.

Nymeth and Carl-After I read Moby Dick I am no longer intimidated by large classics. Epics aren't my favorite but the Odyssey was adventurous and moving so it kept me involved.

I await my little friend with baited breath, Carl. Thanks.

Alyson said...

The Iliad and the Odyssey are without a doubt my favorite works of literature.

The cool thing about ancient Greek lit is that Homer's two works were revered, but any part of the story he didn't talk about was fair game. So the playwrights like Euripides would fill in the gaps.

You'll find the best description of the sack of Troy and the Trojan horse in Virgil's Aeneid, the great Roman epic. You can find out what happens to all your favorite Trojans there.

I think the reason it ends so suddenly is that the story is really Achilles' and after he talks to Priam, that chapter is over.