Context Question Book 6

a)      What has happened to Odysseus before this extract?

Odysseus, before book 6, had brief mentions through the texts and book 5; which is the first book with him featured in.

In Book 6 we learn that Odysseus has been living on Calypso’s island, and has been disallowed to leave it; due to Calypso’s love for the mortal Odysseus. But the beginning of the book, all the gods (bar Poseidon) gather at Mount Olympus to discuss Odysseus’ fate. The conclusion comes to let him leave the island. Calypso tells Odysseus: “Now I am willing, heart and soul, to send you off at last”. We also get insight that Odysseus has been grieving for his return; ‘weeping, his eyes never dry, his sweet life flowing away with the tears he wept for his foiled journey home,’

After Calypso preaching such news to Odysseus, he ‘broke out in a sharp flight of protest’. After a series of speech, Odysseus finally accepts the news and Calypso helps him build a boat for Odysseus’ venture onwards. Of course before the departure Calypso offers food and drink plus gifts, as a sign of Xenia most likely to him. As Odysseus started to return home (18 days of sailing), Poseidon ‘spied Odysseus sailing down the sea’. Which led to Poseidon being angered and so he ‘churned the waves into chaos’ in attempt to be-rid of Odysseus. To his aid, the goddess Ino comes to the rescue, not soon after Athena comes to help. Finally Odysseus makes it to safe land, in which Book 6 starts from.

b)     What do we learn about the Phaeacians from this passage and their relationship with the gods?

Starting, book 6, we find that the ‘great Odysseus’ has been ‘storm-tossed’ into the land where the ‘Phaeacians’ city’ is established. In the lines 1-46 (of book 6) we can learn that the Phaeacians have had/has favourable kings and very much support their gods.

Nausithous, described as the ‘godlike king’, has a society of people by leading them away from a ‘Cyclops’. Since this is very likely to be a myth of some sort, we can understand the importance of this king and the migration he under took. We also learn that the king settled his people in ‘Scheria’, which is currently where the ‘Phaeacians’ city’ is. When settling here, there’s evidence in the book, to suggest he also helped build the city; ‘he flung up walls around the city, built houses, raised the gods’ temples and shared the land for plowing.’ These are signs of a great king, since these acts could be seen as selfless in the sense that it was for his people!

Phaeacians people clearly are supportive of their gods. We can see this by looking when the city was established by king Nausithous, ‘raised the gods’ temples’. They obviously were thinking of the gods and wanted to show their support to them by straight away building temples in the gods’ name when developing this city. When Odysseus reached the Phaeacians, they weren’t under Nausithous’ lead any longer; since of course he was a part of the city’s history and is likely long gone. ‘now Alcinous ruled, and the gods made him wise’, by stating ‘the gods made him wise’ we can imply that the Phaeacians are likely thankful to the gods and believe the gods their king the gift of intelligence. This presents to us a strong faith in the gods’ doings, from these people’s perspective.

c)      Where else have the gods had a direct effect on the lives of the characters and how do they respond to their interaction with the gods?

‘The Odyssey’ contains many interactions with mortals and gods. These meddling gods, shift changes in the story and have a direct impact on the characters.

A major plot point is Athena disguised as the suitor ‘Pallas’, she uses this embodiment to convince that Odysseus (Telemachus’ father) is still alive and that Telemachus needs to find him. Athena does this since she very much favours Telemachus. Telemachus’ initial response to this encounter, was not believe him; but he eventually saw the light and witnessed at a point that the disguised individual was a goddess. This of course provoked him to set sail for his father, alongside Athena ‘And Pallas Athena sped away in the lead as he followed in her footsteps, man and goddess.’ The intervention between these two characters is a very literal interaction and does change the course of the story. Especially since Athena sticks with Telemachus for another book.

Poseidon also plays a major role, especially with his hatred set on Odysseus. Our first reference to the protagonist and the rage of Poseidon is that Poseidon initially shipwrecks Odysseus on his travels home from troy. Also Book 5 gives us an insight of a committee of gods deciding the fate Odysseus. The idea of this gathering of gods, on Mount Olympus, is quite a powerful image and goes to show just how much the gods involvement is; with the mortal world. After this we learn of Calypso imprisoning Odysseus and sleeping with him, in result Odysseus has quite a negative reaction to some of the gods since Calypso is stopping him from returning home. Calypso is another god that favours, and even loves, a particular mortal. But the gods also defy other gods, especially Poseidon in this case. After Odysseus sails off from Calypso’s island, Poseidon gets pretty annoyed at the sight of Odysseus’ travels home and conjures another storm to put him off course. Odysseus inherently has bad thoughts on Poseidon, but yet will still pray to the gods for safe travels, and again: the gods intervene and come to his aid.

{I did terrible on this essay…}

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One Response to Context Question Book 6

  1. markcotter says:

    Part a – good response. You mention that Odysseus is mentioned in earlier books. If you add something about what is said, it would gain a couple of extra marks to show the breadth of your understanding.
    Part b – generally good but there are a couple of things that you have missed – like the dancing circles for example.
    Part c – what you have written makes sense: there just needs to be more of it.
    Potentially a strong grade (A or B) but part C brings that down – which you recognise at the end of your post.

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