The Odyssey

The Odyssey: Dominant Themes of Book III


Book Three illustrates a number of important ongoing themes of The Odyssey. Books One through Four are called "The Telemacheia." They relay the tale of Odysseus' son, Telemachus, and his coming of age as he searches for information about the fate of his father and advice as to what he should do about his mother's greedy suitors. Book Three in particular sees Telemachus coming into power in his first attempts at diplomacy outside of his home city, as he deals with King Nestor of Pylos. When Telemachus and Athena (still in her guise as Mentor) arrive at Pylos at line 3.15, Telemachus hangs back, too shy to come forward and address the king directly. Athena encourages him, reminding him that his life has not gone unnoticed by the gods--that he is blessed. Then she leads by example in pouring libations and offering prayer (lines 3.60-75), so when it is finally Telemachus' turn to speak, he is able to do so with enough conviction and skill that he impresses the king. Nestor goes so far as to say that he can see Odysseus' gift of speech in Telemachus--a high compliment.

But there are larger themes at work in this chapter which are central to the entire...

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