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Free Study Guide-The Odyssey by Homer-Free Book Notes Summary
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BOOK 2

Summary

Telemachus calls the Achaeans to an assembly. He complains in vain about the wasting of his property by the suitors. Though he asks them to leave and feast in their own houses, they refuse flatly; instead, led by Antinous, they blame Penelope for deceiving them by false messages and hopes. Only Halitherses, a seer, Mentor, and an old companion of Odysseus take Telemachus' side. The assembly breaks up without having reached a definite conclusion. Telemachus is disillusioned but is encouraged once again by Athena, this time disguised as Mentor. She helps him to make arrangements in order to leave in a ship for Pylos. He returns to his house for supplies, where he is mocked by the suitors and helped by his nurse Eurycleia. He tells her to keep his departure a secret from Penelope, so as not to worry her. Telemachus, the crew, and Athena disguised as Mentor leave Ithaca secretly in the middle of the night after having made drink offerings to the gods.

Notes

Telemachus takes a step forward to maturity by assuming responsibility. At the assembly, he actually occupies his father's seat, and the elders do not challenge him. However, he has not yet acquired the self-control and presence of mind of his father. When he makes a speech asking the suitors to leave his house, they refuse; as a result, he dashes his staff to the ground and begins to weep. This event highlights the utter helplessness of Odysseus' family in his absence. Their crisis is heightened by Penelope's having exhausted her resources in putting off the suitors. For the last three years, she has been weaving and unweaving a funeral shroud meant for Laertes, Odysseus' father, having promised to choose one of the suitors upon its completion. At the assembly, Antinous condemns her deception and demands that she make a decision. The poet, therefore, creates a situation where everything hinges on the possible return of Odysseus. This is genius at work.


The role of gods and fate plays an important part once again. Zeus sends forth two eagles in answer to Telemachus' threat in the assembly as punishment for the suitors. Halitherses interprets this sign as doom for the suitors and reminds them that he has predicted all these events and that all his past prophecies have come true. In response, Eurymachus denies fate brutally and mocks the seer. Athena, Zeus' daughter, intervenes to make Telemachus' task easier, leaving the reader to wonder whether Odysseus and his son would ever have accomplished heroic feats without her divine help.

It is important to mention Eurycleia's role here. She is a loyal servant of the family and helps Telemachus to collect food and wine for the journey. Telemachus trusts her even more than his own mother. His decision to inform Eurycleia and not Penelope of his impending journey not only shows his trust in his servant, but also shows that despite all his naiveté, Telemachus, like his father, possesses a shrewd, suspicious mind and is capable of acting on the sly.

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