Study Guide

The Odyssey Family

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(Click the themes infographic to download.)

In the Odyssey, blood is most definitely thicker than water. Your deeds (or misdeed) don't just reflect on you; they reflect on the honor and reputation (kleos, if you want to be fancy) of your entire family—living, dead, and unborn. That's why Telemachos is actually kind of mad at his father for not just dying in battle; and that's why Achilleus is so interested in hearing about his son when Odysseus comes to the Underworld. You think you're under a lot of pressure from your parents? Try having a Greek hero for a dad.

(Click the infographic to download.)

Questions About Family

  1. How do sons view their fathers in the Odyssey? What characteristics do they admire? Are there any sons who don't respect or admire their fathers?
  2. As we all noticed, Homer sometimes gives ancestry and family background for even the most minor of characters. Sure, we might roll our eyes at the seemingly unnecessary digressions, but what might be the point of all this? Why is family history so important?
  3. What does marriage mean in the Odyssey? What kind of marriages do we see, and how do they fit into the epic's concept of the "family"?
  4. How do loyal servants fit into the model of a family in the Odyssey?

Chew on This

The father-son relationship is more important to the family structure of Odyssey than the husband-wife relationship.

In the Odyssey, servants are part of the family. Disloyal servants are like treacherous family members, not deceitful employees.

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