Analysis Pages

Simile in The Odyssey

Simile Examples in The Odyssey:

Book I

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"she flew away like a bird..."   (Book I)

It's unclear whether Athena transfigures herself into a bird or merely makes use of her enchanted sandals to fly off into the air. If indeed it is the former, this fits into a larger theme of gods disguising themselves as animals. Perhaps the most famous example of this might be Zeus turning himself into a swan while pursuing Leda, one of his consorts.

"rising like a shield on the horizon..."   (Book V)

Homer makes an interesting choice here by describing an island as a shield. This simile could foreshadow future difficulties Odysseus might face when trying to get to land.

"He looked like some lion..."   (Book VI)

Virility is one of the prized Greek virtues, and this powerful simile expresses the raw masculinity that Odysseus represents in the eyes of Nausicaa. Since we know that Nausicaa is looking for an appropriate suitor, this would be a very attractive quality in a mate.

"As the huntress Artemis..."   (Book VI)

Homer illustrates how much Nausicaa outshines the others by likening her to Artemis, the goddess of virginity, childbirth, and the hunt, in an extended simile.

"a hole in a ship's plank..."   (Book IX)

Homer continually creates space between the Cyclops and the men to justify Odysseus’s actions. This simile further dehumanizes the Cyclops, as if the men are not killing a living creature, but simply dismantling an inanimate object.

"as calves break out and gambol round their mothers..."   (Book X)

The use of this simile helps give the reader a better understanding of the men's reaction to seeing Odysseus. After the Cyclops, the Laestrygonians, and the enchantment of Circe, Odysseus' men certainly have reason to celebrate in such an unrestrained fashion.

"as though it were a dream..."   (Book XI)

An interesting (and accurate) description of how most spirits live in the underworld: they have no body, no substance, and they spend their time wandering aimlessly about in a dream state or revery, seeking some association with the living so they can feel alive again.

"eagles or vultures with crooked talons..."   (Book XVI)

Homer consciously chooses this simile comparing them to of birds of prey to foreshadow what Odysseus and Telemachus become when they confront the suitors.

"the husband who was all the time sitting by her side...."   (Book XIX)

Odysseus is purposefully testing Penelope's loyalty by telling her these stories. The long simile in this sentence not only indicates the grief and care that she still has for her husband but also satisfies Odysseus.

"As the dun nightingale, daughter of Pandareus, sings in the early spring..."   (Book XIX)

Penelope uses a simile to compare her sadness to that of Aedon, daughter of Pandareus and mother of one child, Itylus. Aedon envied her sister-in-law Niobe who had many children. Aedon tried to kill Niobe's eldest son but instead accidentally killed her own son, Itylus. She was inconsolable afterward, and Zeus relieved her grief by changing her into a nightingale, whose sad calls Homer characterizes as Aedon's weeping for her dead child.

"as a bitch with puppies growls..."   (Book XX)

A good example of a simile based on a common domestic image: everyone listening or reading the poem would be familiar with a dog trying to protect its puppies and would understand that Odysseus feels this way because he's protective of his family and willing to defend them at all costs.

"like the twittering of a swallow..."   (Book XXI)

Note the two similes used in this passage: the bard stringing his lyre and the twittering of a swallow. Homer may have wanted to create a concrete image for an audience who may not have been familiar with a weapon such as a bow but would have seen a lyre strung or heard a swallow sing.

"As the sight of land is welcome..."   (Book XXIII)

Yet another classic Homeric simile: For an audience who might need some help in imagining the level of emotion surrounding the reunion, Homer provides a simile that an agricultural and sea-going people could readily understand.

"and looking just like a lion..."   (Book XXIII)

Although this is a gruesome description, Homer uses the typical lion simile to depict Odysseus the warrior-king as he is in the Iliad and as he is now that he has returned home.

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