1. What gift does Odysseus take with him when he goes to see the Cyclops? How dows this gift end up saving the lives of Odysseus and his men?
Odysseus has brough a gift of liquor (wine/brandy) with him to the Cyclops' island. Odysseus uses the wine to get the Cyclops drunk. Odysseus blinds the Cyclops while he is drunk and is able to escape his cave.
"this liquor...of brandy, pure and fiery....they would put one cupful--ruby-colored,
honey-smooth--in twenty more of water,
but still the sweet scent hovered like a fume
over the winebowl" (127-133).
2. What technique does the Cylcops use to control the passage of sheep in and out of his cave? Why does this technique prvent Odysseus and his men from safely killing the Cyclops?
The Cyclops closes the mouth to his cave with a huge boulder, that only the giant monster can move. If Odysseus kills the Cylcops in the cave, he and his men will be trapped inside the cave and die anyway.
"he swung high overhead a slab of solid rock to close the cave. Two dozen four-wheeled wagons, with heaving wagon teams, could not have stirred the tonnage of that rock from where he wedged it over the doorstill" (166-171).
3. What god does Odysseus invoke as he asks the Cyclops for a gift? Why is this god appropriate?
Odysseus invokes the name of Zeus when he asks the Cyclops for hospitality. This is appropriate because Zeus is the king of the gods, the most powerful god and respected and FEARED by all. The Greeks believed that Zeus would punish anyone who does not offer hospitality.
"It was our luck to come here; here we stand,
beholden for your help, or any gifts
you give--as custom is to honor stragers.
We would entreat you, great Sir, have a care
for the gods' courtesy; Zeus will avenvge
the unoffending guest" (Lines 194-197).
4. Why does Odysseus lie and say that his ship was smashed when the Cyclops asks its location?
Odysseus lies because he is afraid the Cyclops will destroy his ship, kill his men and eliminate their only means of escape from the island. Odysseus is being cunning.
"Tell me, where was it, now, you left your ship--
around the point, or down the shore, I wonder?
He thought he'd find out, but I saw through this.
and answered with a ready lie.
Poseidon Lord, who sets the earth a-tremble,
broke it upon the rocks at your land's end.
A wind from seaward served him, drove us there.
We are survivors, these good men and I" (Lines 207-214)
5. What does the Cyclops do to 2 of Odysseus' men? Why is this action particularly ironic given the Greek customs of the "laws of hospitality"?
Cyclops captures and eats 2 of the men for dinner. This is ironic because in the Greek culture hospitality is greatly admired. The Cyclops should be giving Odysseus and his men dinner not making them his dinner.
"He clutched at my companions
and caught two in his hands like squirming puppies
to beat their brains out, spattering the floor.
Then he dismemberered them and made his meal,
gaping and crunching like a mountain lion--
everything innards, flesh and marrow bones" (Lines 216-221).
6. Where do Odysseus and his men hide their wooden stake in the cave? How many men does it take to pick up this huge stake?
They hide the stake in a pile of feces in the back of the cave. It takes a total of 5 men to pick up the stake.
"I hewed again to make a stake with a pinted end. I held this
in the fire's heart and turned it, toughening it,
then hid it, well back in the cavern, under
one of the dung piles in profusion there...
the men I would have chosen won the toss--
four strong men, and I made five as captain" (Lines 257-267).
7. How many Kraters of wine does the Cyclops drink? Why is thiw wine particularly potent?
The Cyclops drinks a total of 4 bowls of wine. The wine is very potent because it is nectar and ambrosia, the wine of the gods.
"He seized and drained the bowl, and it went down
so fiery and smooth he called for more...
Even Cylcopses know the wine grapes grow
out of grassland and loam in heaven's rain,
but here's a bit of nectar and ambrosia"
"Give me another, thank you kindly...
Three bowls I brought him, and he poured them down.
I saw the fuddle and flush come over him" (Lines 286-293).
8. What does Odysseus tell the Cyclops his name (Odysseus) is? Why does this turn out to be clever and humorous? What does it turn out is the Cyclops' own name?
Odysseus tells the Cyclops his name is "Nohbdy". When the Cyclops is injured he yells to the other Cyclopses on the island to come help him. When they arrive, the reader learns the Cyclops' name is Polyphemus. When the other one-eyed giants ask who has hurt Polyphemus he replies "No body" and they leave. Odysseus has cleverly figured out a way to confuse the giants.
"My name is Nohbdy: mother, father and friends,
everyone calls me Nohbdy... (Lines 297-298)
"he set up a howl for Cyclopses who lived in caves on windy peaks nearby...
What ails you Polyphemus? Why do you cry so sore in the starry night?...
Sure no man's driving off your flock? No man has tricked you, ruined you?
Out of the cave the mammoth Polyphemus roared in answer:
Nohbdy. Nohbdy tricked me. Nohbdy ruined me!
To this rough shout they made a sage reply:
Ah well, if nobody has played you foul there in your lonely bed,
we are no use in pain...
they trailed away. And I was filled with laughter
to see how like a charm the name deceived them." (Lines 332-348).
9. What favor does the Cyclops grant Odysseus after being served the wine?
The Cyclops gift to Odysseus is to eat him for dinner, but the Cyclops promises to eat the other men first and save "Nohbdy (Odysseus) for last.
"Nohbdy's my meat, then, after I eat his friends.
Others come first. There's a noble gift, now" (Lines 300-301).
10. What does the Cyclops do after drinking the wine?
The Cyclops passes out drunk in the cave with wine and bits of dead men drooling out of his mouth.
"Even as he spoke, he reeled and tumbled backward,
his great head lolling to one side; and sleep
took him like any creature. Drunk, hiccuping,
he dribbled streams of liquor and bits of men" (Lines 302-305).
11. How or where do Odysseus' men injure the Cyclops? Why didn't they just stab him in the heart? How does this connect with the way they escape the cave?
Odysseus and his men stab the Cyclops in his eye, blinding him. They cannot stab and kill the Cyclops, because they will be trapped in the cave and die anyway. Because the Cyclops is blind, they are able to sneak out of the cave hiding under the bellies of his sheep when the Cyclops moves the boulder to let the sheep out to feed in the morning.
"straight forward they sprinted,lifted it and rammed it
deep in his crater eye, and I leaned on it
turning it as a shipwright turns a drill...
we bored that great eye socket
while blood ran out around the red-hot bar.
Eyelid and lash were seared; the pierced ball
hissed broiling, and the roots popped" (Lines 314-323).
12. To add insult to injury, what do Odysseus' men take with them on the ship as they make their escape?
Odysseus and his men take all of Poyphemus' sheep with them when they board the ship.
"we rounded up his fat, stiff-legged sheep to take aboard,
and drove them down to where the good ship lay" (Lines 401-403).
13.What does Odysseus do when he thinks he is safely out to sea? Why is this a bad idea?
Odysseus teases and taunts Polyphemus when they are out to sea. Polyphemus is angered and throws the top of a hill at the ship causing a tidal wave almost sinking the ship.
" 'O Cyclops! Would you feast on my companions?
Puny, am I. in a cave man's hands?
How do you like the beating that we gave you,
you damned cannibal? Eater if guests
under your roof! Zeus and the gods have paid you!'
The blind thing in his double fury broke
a hilltop in his hands and heaved it after us.
ahead of our black prow it struck and sank
whelmed in a spuming geyser, a giant wave that washed the ship stern foremost back to shore."( Lines 414-423).
14. What personality trait do you suppose motivates Odysseus' desire to reveal his true name to the outsmarted Cyclops? What does this suggest is another weakness of intelligent people? How does that revelation of his name cause problems for the voyage home?
Odysseus is vain and proud and filled with hubris. He wants credit for how smart he is. Odysseus is intelligent and cunning, but he is not always a good leade. He lets his anger get the best of him, risking the life of his men to claim credit for fooling Polyphemus.
"Cyclops, if ever mortal man inquire
how you were put to shame and blinded, tell him
Odysseus, raider of cities, took your eye:
Laertes' son, whose home's on Ithaca" (Lines 439-443).
15. Who is the father of the Cyclops named Polyphemus? Why is that bad news for someone trying to sail home?
Polyphemus' father is Poseidon, the god of the sea and earthquakes. For Odysseus, this is bad news. He has blinded Polyphemus, teased him and angered him. His father, the god Poseidon could create many obstacles to Odysseus' journey home.
"he stretched his hands out in his darkness toward the sky of stars and prayed Poseidon:
'O hear me, lord, blue girdler of the islands,
if I am thine indeed, and thou art father:
grant that Odysseus, raider of cities, never
see his home: Laertes' son, I mean,
who kept his hall on Ithaca. Should destiny
intend that he shall see his roof again
among his family in his fatherland,
far be that day, and ark the years between.
Let him lose all companions, and return
under strange sail to bitter days at home" (Lines 465-476).