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The Odysseyby Homer and Robert Fagles
Reading Group Guide
1. Since Athena knows that Odysseus is alive, why doesn't she tell Telemachus, rather than sending him "in quest of news of your long-lost father"? (p. 86)
2. When she and Menelaus tell their stories about past times in Troy and the missing Odysseus, Helen drugs the wine so no one will feel any pain. Are we to think that she is wise or unwise in doing so?
3. Why does Odysseus reject Calypso's offer of immortality?
4. In Phaeacia, why doesn't Odysseus immediately identify himself to Alcinous and Arete?
5. In telling the story of the Cyclops, Odysseus says that he led some of his men to their deaths and then further endangered the rest of his crew by taunting Polyphemus as they escaped by boat. Since there are no other witnesses present when he tells this story, why does Odysseus show himself in such an unfavorable light?
6. How are the fate and death of Odysseus, as prophesied by Tiresias, different from those of Agamemnon and Achilles, both of whom Odysseus meets in the House of the Dead?
7. Why does Odysseus tell such long, elaborate, untrue stories about his life to introduce himself to Athena, Eumaeus, and Penelope? Are the stories in some sense truthful?
8. Why doesn't Penelope bring the suitors' courting to an end when she knows for certain that they have plotted to murder Telemachus?
9. Does Odysseus mean to warn Amphinomus about his plan to kill the suitors so that he can save himself? Why has Athena nevertheless "bound him fast to death"? (p. 381)
10. Why doesn't Odysseus explicitly reveal himself to Penelope before proceeding with his plans?
11. Why does Telemachus hang the serving women "so all might die a pitiful, ghastly death" (p. 454) instead of killing them as his father prescribes, cleanly with swords?
12. Why does Odysseus think it best to probe and test his aged father Laertes in every way, instead of revealing himself at once?
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