The Odyssey challenges students more than many other stories. The setting and characters are constantly changing, and the narrative begins in medias res, that is, in the middle of things. The story is nonlinear. Readers meet Odysseus part-way through his journey home, then he tells the events of the past 20 years. Eventually, the reader catches up with the hero's present day, and the story continues to its conclusion.
Creating a setting map allows students to document Odysseus’ journey. In the example below, the story begins with Odysseus telling Alcinous, the Phaeacian King, of his travels. It then lists the stops on his way home to Ithaca:
The story begins with the battle of Troy, where he fought for ten years.
Then, he landed on the island of the Cicones, where his men looted the town. Instead of quickly fleeing, they stayed and were slaughtered by the Cicones horsemen seeking revenge.
Driven off course by storms, Odysseus' ship landed on the island of the Lotus Eaters. There, his men ate lotus flowers that made them forgetful.
After freeing his crew, Odysseus stopped on the island of the Cyclopes. He and his men were captured by Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon. To escape, Odysseus and his men blinded the cyclops. As they sailed away, Polyphemus asks his father to curse Odysseus so he may never return home.
Next, they went to the island of Aeolus, god of the wind. Aeolus gave Odysseus a bag of wind to help them return home. As they neared Ithaca, the greedy sailors opened the bag, thinking Odysseus was hiding gold. The wind escaped and blew them back to Aeolus. At this point, Aeolus believed Odysseus was cursed, and refused to help him further.
Odysseus' fleet came near the island of the Laestrygonians, a race of cannibals who hurled rocks at the ships, sinking all but one.
Narrowly escaping the Laestrygonians, they sailed on and landed on the island of Circe. Here, Odysseus' men were turned into swine, and he was made Circe's lover.
After being with her a year, Odysseus was told that if he ever wanted to return home, he had to travel to the Land of the Dead in search of the prophet, Tiresias.
Odysseus returned successfully from the underworld, and sailed on, navigating by the island of the Sirens. Between Scylla, a six-headed monster, and Charybdis, a giant whirlpool, nearly all of Odysseus' men perished.
The weary travelers landed on the island of Thrinacia, home to the Cattle of the Sun God, Helios. Despite a warning not to eat the cows, some of Odysseus' men disobeyed him, and again they paid for it with their lives.
Next, they reach Calypso’s island. She offered Odysseus immortality and captivated him as her lover for nearly seven years. Eventually, Zeus intervened, and forced her to let him go.
Here the story catches up, and the reader and Odysseus are in the same setting: the land of the Phaeacians, on the island of Scheria. It is the king and queen of this island that finally get Odysseus home to Ithaca, where more obstacles await him.
Odysseus finally returns home. However, he arrives to find his home overrun with suitors.
Grade Level 9-10
Difficulty Level 1 (Introducing / Reinforcing)
Type of Assignment Individual or Partner
Type of Activity: Setting MapCommon Core Standards
(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)
Create a setting map of Odysseus' journey. Click "Add Cells" to change the number of cells if needed.
(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)
| Proficient |
| Emerging |
| Beginning |
The student effectively describes the setting by identifying the place, time, and atmosphere.
The student describes two elements of the setting.
The student describes only one aspect of the setting.
Role of Setting
The student effectively identifies how the setting contributes to the development of plot, characters, mood, and theme.
The student is able to identify how the setting contributes to the development of two aspects of the novel: plot, characters, mood, or theme.
The student is able to identify how the setting contributes to the development of one aspect of the novel: plot, characters, mood, or theme.
Shifts in Setting
The student identifies how the setting shifts and the effect this change has on plot, character, mood and theme development.
The student is able to identify how the setting shifts, and the effect this shift has on two aspects of the development of the novel (plot, character, mood, or theme).
The student is able to identify how the setting shifts, and the effect this shift has on one aspect of the development of the novel (plot, character, mood, or theme).
Final product contains accurate visual depictions of setting and characters.
Final product demonstrates an effort to accurately portray settings and characters though some aspects are confusing and/or inaccurate.
Final product contains irrelevant images.
Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation
Final product is free of spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors.
Final product contains up to three errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar that do not alter the meaning of the text.
Final product contains more than three errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar.
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