A Brief Summary of the Odyssey by Homer

Categories: CharacterOdysseyPoems

Odysseus, King of Ithaca, son of Laertes, is the main character of Homer’s story, The Odyssey. His complex motivations drive him to return to his homeland after being blown away to far off lands in the aftermath of the Trojan War. As an epic hero, Odysseus shows traits of nobility, heroism, and bravery.

Although, he also has negative traits like curiosity, pride and arrogance. Throughout the story his interactions with other characters help reflect these traits. His conflicting motivations advance the plot and develop the theme of The Odyssey.

In the beginning of the story, Odysseus’ ship is blown off course while sailing home from a successful campaign in the city of Troy. This was a result of not praying to the gods, or giving thanks to them for helping his people in the Trojan War. This shows that Odysseus journey home is made even harder due to his motivation to be prideful. He is now even more motivated to return to Ithaca, but this desire is conflicted by his desire to save his men from the clutches of the Lotus Eaters.

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The Lotus Eaters entrap his men with their narcotic plants after they crash landed in their land. While he wants to return home, his best interest for his crewmembers prevent him from doing this immediately.

His next encounter with mythical beasts of Greek legend is with the one-eyed Cyclops. Odysseus and his men wish to briefly take refuge on the island of the Cyclopes and restock on their supplies.

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Unfortunately, another of Odysseus negative motivations surfaces here: curiosity. Odysseus, against the behest of his men, decides to investigate the cave of the Cyclops, instead of simply steal its supplies. This results in Odysseus and his men getting trapped inside the cave of Polyphemus, a Cyclops. After making a hasty and cunning escape from the cave, Odysseus’ motivations are once again conflicted. He must escape along with his men from the island of Polyphemus, but also desires to brag and gloat to the Cyclops about his defeat. He says “if ever mortal man inquire, tell him Odysseus, raider of cities, took your eye: Laertes’ son, whose home is on Ithaca!” This angers Polyphemus and causes him to throw a huge boulder at Odysseus’ fleet. Odysseus’arrogance cost him a ship full of his soldiers.

After receiving advice from the wise woman Circe, and the prophet, Tiresias, Odysseus finally knows how to return home. He sails through the presence of the sirens, he and his men protected. He then arrives at the dwelling of the great sea monster, Scylla. Odysseus knows he will not be able to navigate past the monster without losing some of his men to its six heads, so he reluctantly misinforms his men so that they will have a false sense of courage. He purposely “told them nothing, as they could do nothing.” His desire to escape the monster and return home is conflicted with his motivation to keep his men safe.

In the end, he must sacrifice several of his men to the Scylla’s heads.

Odysseus final conflict shows itself when he and his men arrive on the island of the Sun God’s (Helios’) cattle. He learned from Tiresias that he and his men must not eat of the cattle no matter what.

Odysseus relays this message to his soldiers, telling them they will all be killed if they do. Unfortunately, Odysseus’ men ignore this threat and against his warnings, eat the cattle. Eurylochus, the ringleader of the mutineers declares. “Come, we’ll cut out the noblest of these cattle for sacrifice to the gods who own the skies-” This causes Helios to conjure up a storm and eliminate all of Odysseus’men. Odysseus’ motivation to arrive back at Ithaca is once again conflicted by his desire to protect his crewmembers.

Although he tried, Odysseus ultimately failed in maintaining control over his men, and it results in the loss of his entire fleet. Eventually though, after 20 years away from home and 10 years at sea, Odysseus is deemed worthy by the gods to return home. During this experience he has learned his lesson, the theme of the story.

I believe the theme of The Odyssey is, “A successful journey cannot be completed when impeded by selfish desires.” Odysseus’ conflicting motivations during part one of the Odyssey helped develop and exemplify this theme. His desire to return home is conflicted by the burden of his men, who prove to be quite foolish at times, his great curiosity, his pride, and his arrogance. Had Odysseus been able to overcome these motivations sooner, he may have saved many lives and enjoyed a peaceful journey home.

Odysseus is a complex and well-developed character with complex motivations. These motivations sometimes come into conflict with each other, but Odysseus manages to get over them with time. In the beginning of the story, Odysseus was rash and prideful. By the end of the epic poem, he has grown into a mature and respectful man, who doesn’t doubt the power of the gods. Homer has done an excellent job developing the character of Odysseus, and the story shows this.

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A Brief Summary of the Odyssey by Homer. (2022, Jun 08). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-brief-summary-of-the-odyssey-by-homer-essay

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