The Great Wanderings are the adventures that Odysseus recounts in Books 9-12 of The Odyssey. They include the following episodes:

  1. The Cicones (begins on p. 212)
  2. The Lotus Eaters (p. 214)
  3. Polyphemus the Cyclops (p.214)
  4. Aeolus, King of the Winds (p. 230)
  5. The Laestrygonians, Giants (p. 233)
  6. Circe (p. 234)
  7. (The Cimmerians and then) the Land of the Dead (p. 249)
  8. Back to Circe to bury Elpenor (p. 271)
  9. The Sirens (p. 276)
  10. Scylla and Charybdis (p. 273)
  11. Thrinacia and The Cattle of the Sun (p. 279)
  12. Back to Charybdis (p. 284)

Select one of the above episodes (BUT NOT THE CYCLOPS EPISODE) and write a 3–5 page essay organized according to the general outline below. Using details from the text,  carefully fashion and support an argument that addresses the following questions:

  • Intro and Thesis Statement:  What is the most important lesson or item of information learned in this episode? (This could be something Odysseus learns, or it could be something you and other careful readers will learn.)
  • Paragraph or Part 1: What obstacles does Odysseus face in this episode? What challenges must he overcome?  What is lost and what is gained in this episode?
  • Paragraph or Part 2: What virtues or heroic characteristics are valued in this episode? How is their value revealed?  What is the most important lesson or item of information learned in this episode? What details from the text support your argument?
  • Paragraph or Part 3: How does the style of the passage support your argument? For example, are there epic similes, metaphors, patterns of expression, or curious phrases that illuminate the text and support your interpretation?
  • Paragraph or Part 4: How does this episode enhance the meaning or significance of other parts of The Odyssey? What themes does this episode uncover or enhance?  What would be lost from The Odyssey if this episode were removed?
  • Conclusion


You are not allowed to use any other sources besides The Odyssey (this especially includes summaries or online analyses). You may, however, use an online searchable version of The Odyssey in order to find supporting quotes–only if you then use the Fagles translation used in this course to type out those quotes (Do not cut and paste). Use parenthetical citation according to MLA format. Choose short, pithy quotes to make your point rather than long summative passages. Analyze; do not summarize. Assume the reader of your essay has already read The Odyssey and doesn’t need to know “what happens next.” Instead, your task is to convince your reader of a certain interpretation of the text.

Your essay should be typed and printed in Times New Roman 12 pt. font, double spaced, with 1-inch margins. Please fill out a cover sheet (available in your assignment folder for Essay 1 in Blackboard) and make that the first page of your essay. This does not count toward the minimum length of three full pages.

Please check to make sure your essay meets the guidelines for argument, organization, mechanics, and style to be found in the Writing Help Document and the “6 Rules for Good Writing” document posted on Blackboard.

While I can’t assess your writing before the official submission, I can recommend a few things:

1)     Cite passages from long poems not with page numbers, but with book and line number. For example, cite a quote as (Odyssey 12.326-27), not (Homer, 280). Since The Odyssey is the only source you are allowed to use for this assignment, all subsequent citations do not need The Odyssey mentioned in parentheses.

2)      Consider if you are saying exactly what you mean to say. Example: in a sentence that states temptation is the cause of death for Odysseus’s men, do you mean to say that “giving in to temptation” is the cause, instead? There are logical consequences to imprecise statements. Could temptation be the means of gaining glory if it is withstood? Ask yourself if you are really saying exactly what you want to say.

3)      Italicize a word when you are drawing attention to it as a word: For example, “Homer’s repetition of the word heart in this passage…” Also italicize titles of long works of literature (The Odyssey) and foreign terms (xenia, kleos, and nostos).

4)      In the paragraph or section on Homer’s style, try to have at least three stylistic features to comment on. Are there any useful or interesting metaphors in this episode? Any particularly beautiful or strange descriptions? Point out these stylistic highlights to reinforce your main point. 

Submit your Essay 1 by 11:59 p.m. (CT) on Sunday of Module/Week 2.