A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey

By Irene J. F. De Jong | Go to book overview
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BOOK FIVE

Finally, the narrator again picks up the 'Odysseus' storyline, which he had dropped in 1.95, and we meet our hero in person. The rhythm of narration increases considerably, since a mere 500 lines deal with day seven to–the first part of–day thirty-two; cf. Appendix A. Whereas in the Iliad summarized periods occur mainly at the beginning and end of the story (nine days of the plague, twelve days of Hector's body lying unburied), in the Odyssey they are clustered here (four days of completing the raft: 262; first seventeen days of Odysseus' voyage on the raft: 278–9; two days of Odysseus floating on the sea: 388–90).

These days offer a variety of scenes: we begin with a divine council (1–42), which picks up the divine council in Book 1 and marks the return to the 'Odysseus' storyline. Then we have a 'visit' type-scene, in which Hermes brings Calypso the news of Odysseus' 'release' (43–148). There follows the 'farewell' scene between Odysseus and Calypso, with splendid displays of rhetoric on both sides (149–227). After these high-strung emotions, a quieter mood sets in with the scene of the building of the raft and the initial peaceful part of Odysseus' voyage (228–78). We end with the most elaborate 'storm' scene in the Odyssey and Odysseus' landing on Scheria (279–493).

1–42 The first council of the gods (1.26–95) announced both Hermes' visit to Calypso and Athena's visit to Telemachus. Athena's visit (and all that it leads to: Telemachus' trip to Pylos and Sparta) having taken place, the narrator now turns to Hermes' visit. The importance of the moment (Odysseus is about to return home) and the large distance (2.222 lines) between the announcement of Hermes' visit and its fulfilment lead him to make that visit the occasion of a second divine council. This second council

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