1) Should Helen be blamed or not be blamed for the Trojan War according to the narrators in the accounts we have read, and why?
Pinpointing the cause of the Trojan War to one person I believe is a naive assumption. The Gods and Goddesses, Paris and Odysseus also played a part in starting the Trojan War.
The narrator in the Odyssey seems to suggest that Helen was being controlled by the Goddess Aphrodite (Goddess of Love) to fall in love with Paris. I think it would be ignorant to put the blame directly on Helen if she was being controlled by a Goddess. Who can resist a God? Even Odysseus himself cannot resist the temptations of the Gods. Also in Book IV of the Odyssey Helen mentions that Aphrodite made her do it.
In addition Paris should have equal blame for starting the war. Paris knew there would be consequences for stealing Menelaus wife (the Queen of Sparta). He knew that this could mean war for his country yet this did not deter him. For these reasons I would say Paris has as much fault as Helen.
Odysseus also has a part to blame in this war as well. He suggested to the King of Sparta that if Helen were ever in trouble they must gather their armies and save her. This gave Agamemnon the perfect excuse to attack Troy and start the Trojan War.
2) Which story or scene from the Epic Cycle we have read seems most striking/compelling/meaningful to you? Re-tell the story or scene briefly, and state what you think it means.
I found the scene in book 11 where Odysseus’ is narrating his own story of the underworld to the Phaiakians to be intriguing. Odysseus starts by describing his travel River of Ocean in the land of the Cimmerians, where he pours his libations and sacrifices a goat. In his story of the underworld the part I found particularly intriguing was his meeting with his mother, Antikleia, in the underworld.
I believe Odysseus chooses to narrate meeting his mother in the underworld to show he embraces the virtues of females and...