"The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" are epic poems written by the Greek poet Homer around the 7th or 8th century B.C. They are considered two of the most influential early works in Western literature. The poems are interconnected and have strong similarities, even though the message and perspectives in each are different. Homer wrote "The Iliad" first, so "The Odyssey" is a sequel with its own plot and character development.
Epic Poem Style
"The Odyssey" is related to "The Iliad" in its overall construction. Homer wrote both poems in the same narrative format from the third person omniscient point of view. The stories focus on heroic deeds, human weaknesses and the connection between humans and supernatural forces, such as Greek gods. The central characters in each poem beat overwhelming odds and face difficult challenges to complete their epic journeys. The main characters learn important life lessons along the way.
Both stories focus on a single masculine protagonist. The central character in "The Iliad" is Achilleus, a demigod who is also a skilled warrior. Odysseus is the main protagonist in "The Odyssey" -- a dedicated, hardworking man who leads his crew with integrity and loyalty. Achilleus is already dead in "The Odyssey," but readers still get a glimpse of him in the underworld. Homer sets the stage for "The Odyssey" by introducing Odysseus as a minor character in "The Iliad." Odysseus represents heroic qualities that stem from a strong will and mind, not just physical warrior-like abilities.
Tone and Setting
"The Odyssey" and "The Iliad" are interconnected because both poems deal with Greek mythology and the relationship between man and the gods. However, Homer presents a much fairer view of the gods in "The Odyssey" than in "The Iliad." In "The Odyssey," the gods use divine justice in their dealings with humans. They punish wrongdoing and issue consequences for immoral or unjust behavior, including punishments for Odysseus when he acts selfishly. In "The Iliad," the gods act out of their own free will, chastising and rewarding mankind on whim.
Significance of the Trojan War
"The Odyssey" is related to "The Iliad" because both poems involve the Trojan War. In "The Iliad," the Trojan War has been raging for 10 years and Achilleus finally dedicates himself to defeating the Trojans after his best friend is killed in battle. The Trojan War has already ended at the beginning of "The Odyssey," but Odysseus is lost at sea and hasn't been able to return home to Ithaca after the war. Odysseus' wife and surviving countrymen eagerly await his return, but fear he's dead.