Odysseus is mentioned once and very vaguely between the first four books of the Odyssey. Instead, the first four books almost act as a prologue or an introduction to The Odyssey. They are preparing us for the introduction of the main character, Odysseus. The first four books instead give us insight into some of the characters and what they think about Odysseus’s main character. We get lots of information about Odysseus from the first four books that, in many ways, help build up a picture of what he is like and what we can expect from him in the rest of the book.
The first four books are also known as ‘The Telemachy.’ It begins in the year of Odysseus’ return. We understand that Odysseus has angered Poseidon for reasons that the story later reveals; the God of the sea blocks his progress from the island. Athene likes Odysseus and pleads his case to the other Olympians. Finally, Zeus, the king of Gods, makes a decision, and the wishes of Poseidon are set aside: Odysseus will be allowed to return home.
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The story begins ten years after the end of the Trojan War. All the Greek heroes except Odysseus have returned home. Odysseus pines on the remote island Ogygia with a goddess named Calypso. Calypso has fallen in love with Odysseus and refuses to let him go home. The narrator of the Odyssey raises the Muse, asking for inspiration as he prepares to tell the story of Odysseus.
We glimpse Odysseus very vaguely in the first book. We get to know the situation that he is presently in. Athena describes this to us. In this speech, he is described as “wise Odysseus” and being “unhappy.” We also understand in this speech that he is longing for his wife and to go home to Ithaka. Athene also tells us that he is suffering. Athene informs us that Odysseus is in the hands of a goddess named Kalypso who is working “to charm him to forget Ithaka.” This makes me feel great sorrow for Odysseus, as I am sure we all know how horrible it is to miss home.
Furthermore, Athene makes it even more sorrowful by telling us that Odysseus is “straining to get sight of the very smoke uprising from his own country.” We see that Odysseus is so desperate to hear from his kingdom and sincerely cares about his home. The focus then shifts to the predicament of Odysseus’s son, Telemachus. He finds himself coming of age in a household taken over by his mother’s suitors, who do not like him at all. With the support of Athene and the other gods, he must learn that he has to take control of the household and follow his father’s footsteps after this position has been vacant for twenty years.
The Odyssey may start with a brief synopsis of Odysseus’s whereabouts, but it quickly moves on to focus on Telemachus’s swift maturation. The narrator appears to highlight the tension between Telemachus and the opportunistic suitors as it reaches climax. In book one, we see Telemachus’s psychological journey commence. Also, in Book one, we are shown that the gods are concerned with heroic Odysseus. They are so concerned; Odysseus is mentioned in their Olympian discussions. By the end of Book One, we know that Odysseus is alive but held in captivity by a goddess Calypso.
The first thing that I noticed about the first four books of the Odyssey is that Odysseus barely features themself as a character. However, I get a lot of information about him from other characters and their views on him. They all describe him well and share similar, positive views on him. They all miss him as well. The first time Odysseus is mentioned, he is described as a ‘man of many ways.’ This gave me the impression that he is quite a complex character, but it seemed pretty cheerful. I think the first four books are good preparation for the introduction to Odysseus.
This is because the reader automatically sees that Odysseus is a man of skill and knowledge. He is also described as a “hero” and “godlike.” This gave me the impression he was a strong man. As I have said before, the reader finds out that Odysseus is alive in the first four books, but this is only because he has obeyed the gods. Out of him and his comrades, he was the only one that had not been involved in the slaughtering of Helios’ herds. This results in those that were involved in the slaughtering being slaughtered themselves. Instead, Odysseus describes his comrades as being “reckless” and “blind fools.”
He sees it as a stupid thing to do but seems to be the only one. From reading this part of the story, I could see that Odysseus is very honourable and wise. The fact he didn’t join in with his comrades shows that he has a sense of independence and loyalty for others. This also shows that Odysseus can make effective decisions and is a clever man who will make the right decision. The incident of the slaughtering of Helios’ herd by Odysseus’ comrades could make the reader feel proud of Odysseus for not getting involved and not getting killed.
When I read the first four books, I felt somewhat sorry for Odysseus, as he seems to suffer quite a lot for no apparent reason. This made me get more involved in the story because I wanted to find out if Odysseus would be safe and return home. We learn that Poseidon does not like Odysseus, but we also learn that Athene favours Odysseus. She appears as his patron goddess. Athene is concerned with Odysseus, and this is why she has brought it up with the Olympians. This may give the reader a sense that Odysseus is worthy enough to be mentioned at this mass meeting of the gods.
When I was first introduced to the palace of Odysseus, the palace seemed to be unorganized and not run very well. We soon learn this is because of the presence of the suitors who are very much against Telemachus. They are trying to erase the memory of Odysseus, as they do not want him back. This is because they want his kingdom to themselves, as well as Penelope, Odysseus’ wife. The only other thing they want to erase is Telemachus and anything that shows the memory of Odysseus. They want to get rid of Telemachus because he is very much like his father. They are described as “sitting about the skins of cattle whom they had slaughtered themselves.”
This shows that they are ruining Odysseus’ possessions to get rid of anything that reminds people of him. They don’t care about him. This puts the reader on edge because they want to see how Odysseus would react to such actions. His palace is being wrecked, and we get the impression that heroic Odysseus would not let this happen, but how would he go about stopping the suitors?mAs the Telemachy unfolds, I become eager to meet the “heroic” Odysseus. As previously said, Telemachus is mentioned a lot in the first four books. We first meet Telemachus when he is wavering between extreme emotions, imagining his father dead and hoping for his safe return.
This shows us he is not thinking straight and doesn’t know what to believe. It makes him look very much like a lost little boy who needs his father to keep him straight. This increases the eagerness to meet Odysseus as we know both Telemachus and Ithaka; Odysseus’s kingdom needs his presence to gain normality. However, it is not only Telemachus and Ithaka that are missing Odysseus. Penelope, Odysseus’ beautiful wife, is in an awful state. She cannot bear the thought of being without Odysseus and is described as “all in tears” due to her “unforgettable sorrow.”
A lot of the Ithakans are also missing Odysseus and long for his return. We can see that he is a much-loved man who is respected by a lot of people. This shows me that he is a lovely man, as he seems to have so much respect from many different people. Athene is yet another character who appears to admire Odysseus greatly. She even gives us a strong image of Odysseus by saying, “I wish he could come now to stand in the outer doorway of his house, wearing a helmet and carrying a shield and two spears.” This is powerful imagery that makes me think of an unbeatable warrior. It is very complimentary on Odysseus’ behalf. This shows further preparation for the reader meeting him in Book five.
We see Telemachus mature quickly throughout the first four books of The Odyssey. Some readers believe that Telemachus is enchanted with the spirit of his father. It is as if he is slowly stepping into his father’s shoes. We see Telemachus show a lot more confidence as the Telemachy progresses. One notable event is when he finally stands up to the suitors in Book 2. This also gives us a better picture of Odysseus as Telemachus is so like his father, we almost see what Odysseus would be like if he were present in Telemachus. When Telemachus stands up to the suitors, he sits in his father’s seat. This suggests to the reader that no assembly has been held since Odysseus set sail. Telemachus has taken his father’s chair is a significant move into Telemachus growing up to be like his “godlike” father.
Another example of Telemachus growing in confidence is when he tells his mother to calm down and be more reasonable. He is calm, but his words are valid and effective. This is a trait of Odysseus that we see shine through Telemachus. In Book 2, Mentor (Athena in disguise) describes Odysseus as a “fair” and a “father-like” figure to all his people in Ithaka. This gives us an insight into his natural ways and his unique characteristics. It makes the reader want to read on because we see what Odysseus is like in Telemachus, and the reader wants to read on further to see why everyone talks too highly of Odysseus and see his qualities.
In Telemachus, we also meet Odysseus’s old nurse, Eurycleia. This is one of Odysseus’ many reasons for returning home. She is described as being “devoted” to Odysseus and his family. She misses him terribly, and we can see that both are longing to be reunited. This is yet another point that shows us how much Odysseus is missed and how much Odysseus misses his home and family, and friends. Another excellent example of the plot showing that Odysseus is keen to return home is when Telemachus prepares to set sail for Pylos. Finally, there is a short scene in Odysseus’ storeroom. The storeroom is described as “gold and bronze were lying piled up.”
It gives me the impression that they have not been touched since Odysseus left Ithaka and will not be touched until he returns. It shows me that Odysseus has a lot to return to, which is probably why he is so eager to make his journey home. When Telemachus reaches Pylos and asks King Nestor whether he has any news about Odysseus, Nestor says, “Then there was no man who wanted to be set up for cunning against great Odysseus.” This speech reinforces the fact we learned earlier about Odysseus. King Nestor seems to exaggerate his relationship with Odysseus.
This makes me believe that many people are desperate to be close to Odysseus and close to him. This is why King Nestor is exaggerating so much. This, therefore, shows me that Odysseus is a famous man, and people want to follow in his footsteps. Odysseus may be honourable and calm, but he is extremely cunning. The reader is therefore prepared for this characteristic as well. At Lacedaemon, Telemachus and Nestor’s son, Peisistratos, meet Menelaus and his wife, Helen of Troy. This is where I learn that Menelaus appears to be very upset about the missing Odysseus. This backs up my idea of Odysseus being popular. He appears a very likeable character since Menelaus very much misses him.
Not only do all the above characters mention Odysseus somehow, but Helen also contributes to preparing the reader for the introduction of Odysseus. She tells a story of when Odysseus disguised himself as a beggar to gather in-depth information from the Trojans. This shows he is a man of skill and courage. Menelaus also praises Odysseus and describes the courage of Odysseus when he hid in the Wooden Horse. He describes Odysseus as “one of the fittest” because only the men with the highest physical ability were put in the horse. Again, this gives me an image of a strong, courageous man.
Overall from books one to four, I expect to meet a lovely, strong, honourable, courageous and skilled man who can hold authority and who is missed and loved by many. However, we do not just get a picture of what Odysseus is like from what other characters say; we also see it from Telemachus. Telemachus is the son of Odysseus and therefore starts to show a lot of inherited traits from his father as he matures from Book One to Four.