The Importance of Homer’s Narrative Technique in the Odyssey

Last Updated: 31 Mar 2023
Essay type: Narrative
Pages: 7 Views: 130

The importance of Homer's narrative technique in appreciation of the Odyssey cannot be emphasised enough. The role of similes, rhythm, formulaic composition, epithets, rhythm, folktale motifs and direct speech is to create composure in the poem and give rise to a particular form of Homeric narrative. The texture of the poem allows a reader or audience a "creative share in the artistic experience"1 as the numerous literary devices create a colourful epic narrative comprised of the objective, the subjective and the dramatic.

The notion of an oral tradition runs closely alongside Homeric narrative in our appreciation of the Odyssey, and the ideas are closely entwined with one another. Thus to comprehend key features of Homeric narrative, it is important to consider the role of the oral tradition in the formulation of this. To understand key features of Homeric narrative it is first worth considering the critical role of the "linguistic phonomena of our text of Homer"2 and its profound effect on the poem.

The elements of phonetics, morphology, and vocabulary which characterize the narrative is a construction of Aeolic, Ionic, artificial, and possibly Achaean text. Homer exercised obsolete word form, new word forms and even created artificial forms in order to utilize a language adapted to the needs of hexameter versification. 3. Thus formula was clearly of primary importance in Homeric narrative to the extent that language had to cater for formula not formula to language, born frth from the strict adherence to the oral tradition.

Order custom essay The Importance of Homer’s Narrative Technique in the Odyssey with free plagiarism report

feat icon 450+ experts on 30 subjects feat icon Starting from 3 hours delivery
Get Essay Help

It clearly allows flexibility in compusure for the bard as the infinitive 'to be' has following forms in Homeric narrative: emen, emmen, emenai, emmenai, einai, each is particular to a period yet each gives different numbers of syllables at the poets disposal thus can adhere to rhythmic structure. Formula frames the Odyssey from the beginning, every repeated expression down to stock scenes and themes that are rcorrent in the same formulaic composition. Origin of the works of Rothe, of Scott and Shewan set out to demonstrate that formulae are found everywhere in Homer and that there must be a common stock from which every epic poet could draw.

There does remain question as to how much to attrbute to the individual poet as Homeric tradition or just as bardic tradition in general thus does it constitute Homeric narrative. M. Meillet wrote that 'Homeric epic is entirely composed of formulae handed down from poet to poet. An examination of any passage will quickly reveal that it is made up of lines and fragments of lines which are reproduced word for word in one or several other passages'4 Two fold purpose of formulaic composition allowed expression of ideas in a suitable manner, and of attenuating the difficulties of versification.

Example of Traditional epithet as repetition (list no. of places) meant when context required it, and when the sense allowed it, bard could make any combination of these expressions creating both a correct line and a complete sentence. Numerous examples of an expression regularly used under the same metrical conditions, to express an essential idea about a charafcter important when considering the authors intehntion of allowing the audience some hint of chracter. A proper noun with the help of some epithetic word creates a formula which exactly fills that portion of the line which extends from the feminine caesura to the end.

This is called noun epithet formula as it is of a given metrical value and is made up of particular parts of speech. They indirectly attempt to identify certain characteristics or manners with each hero and distinguish him from others without stone character that is not individual to listeners opinion. Repetition through Stock scenes is also present not metrically identical yet structurally identical for example 1. 102 and 14.? Prime examples of Hospitality stock scene. (GO INTO SPECIFICS).

In relation to the oral tradition it allowed the bards to convey the long tale in a consistent way without needing to stretch amzing memory even further, it als highlights or makes more apparent characters who don't adhere to the rules of hospitality characterizing them in a negative way as Homer intended. The solidity of narrative created by repetition of type scenes important adds a acertain kind of skeleton structure to the poem. Direct speech comprises 45 % of the Odyssey and is therefore an important feature of Homeric narrative.

It conveys a violence of emotion that is both dramatic and allows the characters themselves to develop the plot or reveal their own personalities. Plato said of Homers use of dialogue that it has a unique life of its own5 . Two kinds of direct speech; either public or private. Private speech (EG) sees characters talk amongst themselves and evoke spontaneous emotion that further characterizes. Similarly public speeches sees leaders put forward opinions in council or agora same role except it normally displays qualities of leadership or arrogance.

Personality emerges from "words endowed with life" for example Odysseus and his man of many wiles persona. Notice the quality and diversity of the speech. The amount of direct speech serves to make silence even more poignant (Book 16 and Odysseus and Penelope 23. 85-96) In example notice gnomes in the last lines of direct speech which sees the wisdom of generations contained in brief statement and phrasing reveals high moral tone. Direct speech also plays an important role in assisting vizualisation of outward appearance, as Homeric narrative rarely describes specific visual characteristics.

It generally attempts to build up a mental impression of the people as opposed to detailed visual picture as the 'beautiful is never described'6 except for Thersites in Illiad when the poet delights in his uglification (II . 216)and that is the beauty of roots in oral tradition. Open ended characters and Odysseus' is different to everyone whether you admire his wit and slyness or feel him distrustful. The Artistic detail revealed through speech as the "poet endows his heroic characters with the knowledge which he himself possesses"

EMBEDDED FOCALIZATIONSimilarly often through direct speech main features are marked in advance by forecast or prophecy (1. 16)(4. 767)central actions like the death of the suitors is forecast more than once, each one emphasising more and more the tragic and sinister character of what is to come, it also increases tension of some main events and glues the long story together with consistency. Thirty nine Similes (metaphor extended and simplified) make the text vivid and the extended epic simile is a peculiar feature of Homeric epic.

Favours a full legth simile extending to six or seven lines begins by describing scene or an action suggested by what happens in the narrative, then develops little picture illustrating emotion. Often begins normally describing scene suggested by main action but eventuall loses contact with that it was trying to illustrate (5. 51-3). Nothing extra illuminated by excess yet continuation adds fresh elements to storyThey can be used to suggest the external appearance and psychology of the hero (EG LION ODYSSEUS).

They particularly introduce aspects of everyday life in to the the heroic world, roots of epic, making oral appreciation better as listeners ould have been able to relate to simile whilst also seeing the epic in context of heroism in comparison Familiar world of everyday life. These comparisonsnhave a roots in tradition yet clearly reflect "Homers own passionate interest in the world and desire to use it as a counterweight to heroic tale" heightens tension between the story and the simile (12. 51)(9. 383).

Many similes appeal to the senses (Oral tradition) to make them more poignant and vivid, great poetry centered around human factor that characterize individuals and types or the essence of a relationship(! )(16. 216-19). Lricism of Homeric simile astounding relating diverse : seasons, storms, wildlife it also adds significance. Could be used to support a theme in the poem for example Nausikaaa compared to Artemis at 8. 521 and Odysseus to a mountain Lion at 6. 128.

It was suggested by Shipp 1953 in a linguistic study that similes were froma later stage of epic tradition due to double similes and irrelevant elaboration that appears unnecessary, but these further accentuete points and add to poignancy. They make an action more vivid and and imaginable whereas a psychological state is hard to convey it is easier using simile. It throws a distinguishing light on that which coud become monotonous. It allows poet to say that which cannot be said in a direct statement.

Notice how Homer avoids negative simile and accumulation of short similes round a single point; suggesting use of similes is very deliberate and purposeful. Folk tale motifs first made apparent by Ludwig Radermacher in 1915 in "Die Erzahlungen der Odysee". Evident that there are certain stories underlying the Homeric poems, although not possible to separate them all as individual texts. Simple "genuine fairy tales" shown by J. Tolstoi in Philologus 1934 ten motifs from Russian tales as components of a modern story all occur in the Odyssey.

Story of the web unmistakable characteristic of folk tale based upon motif that day is at hand to re marry Term draws near and crisis is about to arise. When Telemachos has a beard..... beginning of fairy tale Homer actually made this peculiarly his own. Orientalization Gilgamesh etc. Make mention. Departure to distant land and instructions left behind in particular coming of age myth. (Deer as Pagan myth). Bow scehem of story easily recognizable as a folktale motif: the old weapon of the missing hero will prove who of the competitors is his equal, but that is nobody except himself.

Points to revelation, culmination in suitors sudden realization of King and Queen there. Structure of Homeric narrative is complex, yet orderly. Ring composition is a form of repitition used to signal the end of a section by echoing its beginning. It is frequent in digressions, including similes and also in speeches. Ranges from simple examples 1. 252-69 where begins with "If only he were to come now...... the man he was when I first saw him......... if only Odysseus, the man he was then, could meet these suitors! ".

More complex examples include the beginning of the wanderings being signalled by a "TWO DAY STORM" and ending with a two day storm8 in between enclosing two sequences of five episodes each on either side of the underworld . Probably through oral tradition allows easilt memeorable as a pattern to stick to. Oral tadition Homer must omit "much that a literate poet might think necessary and that he employs certain devices to make his narrative easy to follow". Homer has a basic consideration for hearers great influence on narrative technique.

The rhapsodes success is judged by the course of recitation thus primarily want to keep hold of readers attention . Homer wants to coax the listener into a state of "relaxed receptivity" thus developed directness, simplicity and fullness in its narrative and has a dramatic manner of incidents. This characterizes dialogue and whole structures of Odysseus and Illiad. The skill as a story teller comes through Odyyseeys development mid book not the outcome of the story his eluding charm etc.

Homer concern with hearer eveident in his tendency to repeat incidents, motifs and themes and in part for stock phrases, this all protects the rhapsode from slowing down and assists a listeners memory without effort of their part. Milmann Parry "that inattention was the normal compliment paid by an audience to a recurrent epithet"9 . Depite vagueness Homeric narrative "provides the most elaborate and convincing representations of individual psychology to be found in classical literature"

Cite this Page

The Importance of Homer’s Narrative Technique in the Odyssey. (2017, Dec 22). Retrieved from

Don't let plagiarism ruin your grade

Run a free check or have your essay done for you

plagiarism ruin image

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Save time and let our verified experts help you.

Hire writer