Odysseus’ journey is long and unforgiving. He encounters plenty of hardships on his way. So what is The Odyssey about? In this article, we have summarized the most critical parts of the plot.
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For starters, The Odyssey’s timeline is nonlinear, meaning the plot takes us back and forth in time. The epic poem culminates with Odysseus’ safe return home and the slaughter of the suitors. Once the rightful king is back, the gods call for peace.
It has been around twenty years since the end of the Trojan War, and Ithaca is still missing its king, Odysseus. Many presume him dead, but his wife Penelope and son Telemachus are hopeful. Their palace is overrun by Penelope’s suitors – ignorant aristocrats that are hoping to marry the queen. It is when all seems lost that Athena, the Greek goddess, decides to intervene. Using disguises, she guides Telemachus to leave Ithaca in search of his father.
Meanwhile, Odysseus has been stuck on the island of the nymph Calypso for the last seven years. With some godly intervention, he is finally allowed to sail back home. Unfortunately, earlier on his adventures, Odysseus earned the wrath of Poseidon – god of the sea. This is why his raft crashes. The hero finds himself on Scheria, the island of the Phaeacians. After getting help from their princess Nausicaa, Odysseus finds himself in the royal palace. Unable to hold back his tears at the song about the Trojan War, he tells the Phaeacians who he is.
This is Odysseus’ story.
After the war, he and his men landed on Ismaros. There they suffered losses fighting with the Cicones. They traveled to the island of the Lotus-Eaters next and discovered that the plants cause memory loss. Escaping for fear of forgetting home, they arrived at an island populated by man-eating Cyclops.
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After getting trapped in a cave by one of them, Odysseus devised a cunning plan of escape. He blinded the creature and taunted him as they were escaping. However, it turned out that this Cyclops was Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, and he asked his father to curse Odysseus.
The crew then landed on the island of the wind god Aiolos, who aided them in their journey. He bagged the winds so that the men may return to Ithaca sooner. When the home was on the horizon, Odysseus’ men opened the sacks. They released the winds, causing a storm. They found themselves in the land of Laestrygonians, man-eating giants, who ate more of the crew and destroyed eleven of the twelve ships. Only Odysseus’ ship survived.
Their next stop was the island of the sorceress Circe. She turned some of the men into pigs, but Odysseus managed to turn them back with the help of the gods. Exhausted after their long journey, they stayed on the island for an entire year.
Circe advises that Odysseus must visit the Underworld before going home, and he obliges. To get there, he and his crew swam past the man-drowning Sirens, the sea monster Scylla, and whirlpool Charybdis.
In the Underworld, Odysseus sees his dead friends (including Achilles) and mother and receives a prophecy from Tiresias. According to him, only he will return home alive.
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The prophecy came true. Odysseus’ men, tired and disheartened, disobeyed his orders not to eat the cattle of the sun god Helios. Zeus punished them, and they all died in a storm. Only Odysseus survived, washing up on Calypso’s island.
After this heartfelt story, the Phaeacians help Odysseus by giving him gifts and a ship to travel. Odysseus returns home. With Athena’s help, he is disguised as a beggar as he visits the house of Eumaeus, the swineherd. Meanwhile, Telemachus returns from his journey and is reunited with his father. The three of them plan their revenge against the suitors that overrun the palace. Still in disguise, Odysseus tests the loyalty of his servants and wife. He determines who is still on his side and who he can trust. Penelope, finally giving in under pressure, proposes a contest for the suitors. Whoever can manage to string Odysseus’ bow and shoot an arrow through a dozen ax heads will be her new husband.
The next day, the suitors struggle and are unable to pull off the feat. This is when Odysseus steps up and reveals himself, easily winning the challenge. With his son, loyal servants, and aid from Athena, he begins to slaughter the suitors. After that, Odysseus forces the traitorous maids to clean up the palace before killing them off too. He reunites with his wife, who still cannot honestly believe that Odysseus is alive and back. After passing Penelope’s one more cunning test, the two lovingly embrace.
At the end of the story, Odysseus visits his old father, Laertes. This is where they are stormed by a group demanding revenge for the slaughter of the suitors. Odysseus kills their leader. But before the conflict can progress any further, Athena orders peace between the two sides.
This is the end of The Odyssey’s story and the article as well. Thanks for reading! To create a summary in a few clicks, you can try our online summarizer. To find out about the epic, check the links below.
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