The theme of “The Journey” in The Odyssey and The Canterbury Tales

The concept of the journey is a central thematic element in both The Odyssey and The Canterbury Tales. The overall narrative arc of both texts are bound together by journeys, but with quite different effects. In the case of The Odyssey, the plot is preoccupied with the epic struggles of Odysseus in attempting to return home following the Trojan war, and is also concerned with the journey of Telemachus to find his father and reach maturity. The Canterbury Tales consists of a series of seemingly unrelated stories, but these are tied together with a unifying narrative that brings each of the narrators together in their common journey of pilgrimage.

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Notes on The Odyssey (Book 22, Lines 390-419)

This passage comes quite close to the end of The Odyssey, immediately after Odysseus has taken his revenge on the suitors who have been pursuing his wife in his absence. The suitors are lying in a bloody heap on the floor, and Odysseus asks his son Telemachus to summon Eurycleia, his nurse, because he is keen to extend his revenge upon any unfaithful serving women. After such a bloodthirsty and merciless scene, this passage provides some insight into Odysseus’ justification for his actions, and serves to maintain the audience’s sympathy for him and his plight. The theme of revenge in The Odyssey reaches its climax in Book 22, and this passage represents a pause between two acts: Odysseus’ revenge upon the suitors, and Telemachus’ revenge upon the serving women.

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