Homer’s techniques for presenting the fantastical and magical aspects of Odysseus’s adventures are illustrated in the Odysseus narratives in Books 9-12. What are special effects? How does he make his monsters fearsome and his goddesses stupendous, the dangers terrifying, etc. What is the answer?
Book 9-12 tells the story of Odysseus’ thrilling and colorful adventures. Like a horror movie, the vivid characters and spine-tingling elements are not only effective on their own, but also because they are carefully placed at the right time in the story. These books of The Odyssey make two key narrative decisions. Homer gives the storytelling reins to Odysseus and Odysseus chooses to tell a suspenseful story rather than a simple one. These narrative choices are what make this section’s so-called special effects so convincing.
Homer creates an immediate feeling of intimacy by allowing Odysseus the freedom to tell these stories in first person rather than in third. We are placed in the story, and we feel like we are part of Odysseus. Instead of looking at the story from a distance, as we might do when reading third-person narrations, we identify with Odysseus and his listeners. We find ourselves looking forward to the next chapter, just like them. The choice to tell these stories in Odysseus’s voice not only draws the audience deeper into the story but also lends an urgency and closeness to the events. The story Odysseus tells is more convincing and compelling than any narration because he actually lived the same adventures. He describes the sweet transports he experiences in Circe’s bed and the “brains & mingled blood” that cover the ground of Cyclops’s cave. The details, including the special effects, are vivid because the speaker isn’t a faceless writer but a participant who is describing what he saw.
Odysseus is the first-person narrator. It is his extraordinary ability to create compelling narratives that make each element in his stories come alive. There are many ways he can create suspense. One of his most successful strategies is to make the audience wait for the key information. Instead of focusing on the headlines and then filling out the story as one would with Odysseus’s adventures summary, he sets the scene and suggests that something important is about to occur. Then, he describes the main event, prolonging the anticipation. He describes Circe’s history, the geography of Aeaea and the food that the men ate there. Finally, he finally shares the most fascinating details, the ones that his audience really wants to know about: how the men became dogs and what it was like to be Circe’s lover. Odysseus has a gift for inducing unease in his audience. Odysseus is like a movie director who knows the importance of setting a perfect scene to signal the approaching disaster. For example, Odysseus spends much of his time describing the sleepless night on the ship, their “pleasing ground”, and the nine fat goats they killed to feed them. It is a serene scene that gives us a sense of peace and anticipation for what lies ahead.