The Odyssey

One Classic/Contemporary Novel pairing for middle school or high school

Bibliographic Information: Homer. Translator Butler, Samuel. The Odyssey. New York:, 2009. Print.

Plot Description:
After the fall of Troy, the Greek hero Odysseus has not returned to his kingdom. Many suitors court his wife, Penelope, who does not accept any of them. Their son, Telemachus, wants to throw the suitors out, but is unable. Odysseus, meanwhile, is imprisoned by the nymph Calypso. On the advice of the goddess Athena, Telemachus travels to his father’s war companions, who tell him Odysseus is alive.  The suitors plan to kill Telemachus when he returns, however.  Zeus sends Hermes to rescue Odysseus from Calypso, and Odysseus builds a ship. Poseidon bears a grudge against him and sends a storm to wreck him. He lands in a friendly zone, whose people plead to hear stories of his adventures in return for safe passage home. He makes it back to his kingdom in disguise and is belittled by the suitors. Penelope, thinking she recognizes him, declares she will marry whoever can string Odysseus’ bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axes. Odysseus wins, naturally, and he and Telemachus kill the suitors. He reunites with his wife.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 1050; Accelerated Reader: 10.3

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
The word level of this book tends to vary between basic and complex; often sentences have many one- or two-syllable words, with several complex multisyllabic words. It is mostly written in conversation, and the rest in narrated description. That is to say, the characters speak to the audience, as does the narrator, instead of events being described passively. What appears to be paragraphs upon first inspection, often are convoluted run-on sentences.

Content Area: English, Folklore/Mythology

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Reading for 6-12:  #1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole; #2 Determine theme or central idea and analyze in detail its development; #4 Analyze complex characters; #6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
  • CCSS for Writing for 6-12: #9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • CCSS for Language 6-12:  #3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening; #4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases; #5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuance in word meanings, such as interpret figures of speech.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a great classic book to use as part of a core English Language Arts Curriculum. It is best suited to 10th grade and above. Pair this book with The Fault in Our Stars, as they both explore themes of journey and gaining the courage to face your destiny.


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