Question of the Issue: How do freshmen feel about reading The Odyssey?

Emily Khym '23, Contributor

Freshman English teacher Ms. Kathryn Saxton: “The Odyssey has been a part of the English curriculum since well before I came to Loomis, so I cannot speak to the initial decision to include it. It is a great adventure narrative, a rich poem, and a foundational text in Western literature, so it gives us a lot to work with in the freshman year! I hope that students can enjoy The Odyssey on two levels. As readers, they should allow themselves to be transported into the exciting world of the epic. As scholars, they should embrace the challenge of unpacking Homer’s complex themes and Fagles’s rich language.”

Helen Shen ’23: “I’ve actually read the book before and I’ve always liked it, so the experience of rereading it was pretty good… I think this book was a great choice because we get to read a very differently structured text from a completely different culture, time, and genre. Just on a note of how we are reading Odysseus, I think the time management could have been better as my class skips chapters in between because there is not enough time left in the term.”
Ella Xue ’23: “I actually enjoyed reading it very much! I think the fantasy-adventure aspect makes it the most engaging piece of literature that we have studied this year. Plus, there are a lot of significant heavy topics involved that are still applicable to life today. It is filled with a lot of elaborate figurative language (homeric similes, metaphors, imagery, symbolism, epithets) and relatable themes to examine in detail. The characters are well-developed and interesting.”
Mattie Susan Wright ’23: “I understand the appeal to the English department, as it definitely is a good example of the hero’s journey. Plus, being written as a poem pushes us outside of our comfort zone in reading by making us truly analyze Homer’s word choice in a different form than we are accustomed to.”

Calvin Pan ’23: “In my opinion, The Odyssey is a good introduction to classical literary works due to it being relatively simple while still packed with information about Ancient Greek society and culture. The Odyssey’s focus on an ancient society and its workings draw a sharp contrast between it and our earlier readings, which were much more focused on modern societal issues (Frederick Douglass), language/imagery (The Tempest), and characterization (The Book Thief), which allowed me to familiarize myself with a greater range of texts and a larger array of skills.”

Mattie McCann ’23: “I like the plot of the Odyssey. However, I do not like how it is in poetic form. I find that the poetic lines confuse me more than an original book format. The book is not easy to understand because there’s too many characters and confusing names.”

Tina Mai ’23: “Of course, The Odyssey is a classic, one that many people should read –– however, I just feel like its relevance is inappropriate compared to other novels throughout the year. For example, The Book Thief, Frederick Douglass’s autobiography, and The Emperor was Divine all tied in with themes of xenophobia, racial and religious prejudice, discriminatory tension, etc. These are all issues that are increasingly important in current day society to address. However, with the Odyssey, it feels like we are reading it just because it’s a classic.”