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Books 6-7

Course Hero’s video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Books 6-7 of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.

The Odyssey | Books 6–7 | Summary

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Summary

Book 6

Athena schemes to introduce Odysseus to the daughter of the Phaeacian king Alcinous, Nausicaa. She lures Nausicaa and her maids near the shore where Odysseus has been sleeping, and he is roused by the sound of them playing nearby. The maids scatter as Odysseus approaches them, because he is naked but for a few well-placed leaves. Nausicaa remains and listens while Odysseus pleads with her to help him. Given the strict Greek code of hospitality, Nausicaa agrees to help him, but she tells him to enter alone and to ask Arete, the queen, for help.

Book 7

Odysseus calls upon Athena for guidance once again, and she obliges by cloaking him in an obscuring mist. She moves toward King Alcinous's palace and he follows. Athena tells him his best bet is to pay attention to the queen, Arete, who has a great deal of influence in her husband's kingdom. Once inside the palace, Odysseus throws himself at Arete's feet and begs her to help him. Alcinous declares that he will help Odysseus get home, even though he is still in the dark as to the man's identity. Arete is suspicious when she realizes that Odysseus is wearing clothes she recognizes. This leads Odysseus to tell the king and queen how he met their daughter, Nausicaa. Impressed with Odysseus's sense of respect and honor toward his daughter, Alcinous tells Odysseus that he wishes Nausicaa could marry him but agrees to help Odysseus by providing a ship to take him home.

Analysis

The deception theme appears frequently in these two books, from Athena's obscuring mist to Nausicaa's secret advice to Odysseus and his own behavior in not admitting his true identity when he first appears before Alcinous and Arete. Alcinous nearly mistakes him for a god in disguise, implying that it is not unusual for gods to disguise themselves as mortals. The confusion also plays off an epithet often applied to Odysseus throughout the epic—"godlike." Though mortal, he has divine-seeming qualities, marking him as a worthy hero. Those qualities shine through, even when Odysseus seems nothing more than a tired, suffering man who yearns to return to his home.

The themes of hospitality and devotion to the gods also reemerge in the scene at the Phaeacians' palace. Alcinous and Arete are generous in providing a feast to Odysseus even though they do not know who he is. Similarly, Alcinous's promise to provide him with a ship and crew shows great kindness to a stranger. Alcinous's vow to sacrifice to the gods before Odysseus departs recognizes that ventures should begin only after proper devotion has been paid to the gods. This hospitality and proper piety parallels what Telemachus experienced with Nestor, linking father and son in their adventures as they are linked by character.

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