Reevaluating Classic Ideas: Essay Topics for the Odyssey

Homer’s Odyssy is a masterpiece that requires very little introduction. As a student you will likely encounter it a few times in your academic career – high school, college, grad school. Here are some essay topics you will find interesting and will likely get the attention of your audience:

  1. One of the popular ideas of Odysseus’ character is that he never develops at all in the narrative, suggesting that his character remains the same throughout. Do you agree with this view and if not do in what ways does his character develop?
  2. There is a well-known Greek concept that conveys the courtesy and generosity shown to travelers, adventurers and generally anyone who is a long way from home. Why do you think hospitality had more significance in the time in which the poem was written than it does today?
  3. In most classical Greek literature, the relationship between men and gods I distinctly portrayed as a regular part of what keeps the action and narrative moving. What roles do the gods play in Odyssey? Is this role any different than that which is found in the Iliad?
  4. What roles do women play in the Odyssey? Looking at characters like Calypso, Penelope, or Anticleia, talk about how women are portrayed in this epic. Is this any different than the way women are portrayed in the Iliad?
  5. How do Odysseus and Telemachu’s journeys different? What can be said of the younger man’s experiences and do they enable his character to grow more in the poem? How does Athena play into his success?
  6. What techniques does Homer use to portray the fantastical and magical aspects of Odysseus’ adventures, especially the narrative as stated in Books 9 – 12? In modern terms, we might consider it special effects, but how does Homer treat things like monsters, dangers, etc. to make them more impressive?
  7. The Odyssey has inspired many re-tellings and re-visionings in the centuries after it was written. What can you draw from a work that has had such an effect on literature, art, film and more? What are some recent ways elements of the story have appeared in works?

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