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Free Study Guide-The Odyssey by Homer-Free Book Notes Summary
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Author's Use of Style in The Odyssey

In The Odyssey, Homer invites his audience to share the emotions at work and enter into the spirit of the characters. He does this by concentrating on a single mood at a time, which allows him to maintain a simplicity of poetic effect. Every episode has, on the whole, a single character, but once it is finished, the reader may expect something quite different in the next. When Odysseus strings the bow, the reader is held in tense expectation, but the whole situation moves forward with increasing excitement as he first shoots an arrow down the line of the axes and then throws off his rags and announces his new task of vengeance. The tone is suddenly changed and then maintained for the new action. More exciting, but equally well maintained, is the small episode in which Odysseus is attacked by the dogs and rescued by the swineherd. The different elements are fused into a single whole that has a character different both from what precedes and from what succeeds it.


The straightforward, direct movement of the narrative is enhanced by Homer's eye for detail and his small touches that throw a vivid light on what happens. One such touch occurs when Menelaus tells how Helen walked around the wooden horse at Troy and addressed the Achaean leaders by imitating the voices of their wives. The reader can believe this of Helen, but the event is told of so simply that the reader does not realize immediately how illuminating it is. Another small touch, tragic, but deeply touching, is that of the dog Argus, who recognizes Odysseus after twenty years and then dies. Although he has suffered, his death is the appropriate end at the right time. In such cases, a detail adds something highly individual and yet illuminating. Such details are more effective when they strengthen some display of emotion or affection. They are as necessary to the heroic outlook as any kind of physical prowess, for they provide the hero with a solid background and bind his friends to him.

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