The Odyssey

Book 21–24

Wednesday, November 14 (4:30 pm)

Thursday. November 15 (5:00 pm)

(2 hours)

  1. How does the swineherd Eumaios compare to the other characters we have encountered in the Odyssey so far. Is he a hero? Does he show good hospitality? Can he be trusted? Why do you believe Odysseus does not reveal his identity to him?

Eumaeus, in my opinion, is unlike other characters we have encountered so far in the Odyssey. First and foremost when we are introduced to him he tells Odysseus a story of his past and we see how it relates to Odysseus. Both Eumaeus and Odysseus were separated from their families and Eumaeus was also a royal just like Odysseus. I would consider Eumaeus a hero because it is with his aid that Odysseus is able to go up against the suitors. Euemaeus also displays great hospitality. He welcomed Odysseus despite the fact that he appeared to be a beggar. He then allowed Odysseus, in disguise, to stay longer with him as opposed to letting him join the suitors. Eumaeus is one of the characters I trust the most. He is very loyal to Odysseus from the beginning because of how much his father helped him. He states, “I shall never find so kind a master again wherever I may go, not even if I return to my parents’ house … And much as I should like to be back in my own country and set eyes on them again, my longing for them has given place in my heart to overwhelming regret for the lost Odysseus.” Eumaeus is incredibly devoted to Odysseus and his entire family because Odysseus’ father took him in and treated him so kindly. He does not even believe his own true parents would show him the same solicitude. As much as he would like to go back to his motherland his desire to go back has been replaced with his sorrow for Odysseus being away. Imagine how deeply you must feel about someone to miss them more than you miss your own parents. When he first introduces himself to Odysseus he reveals his hatred for the suitors and he clearly wishes for Odysseus to return and claim his throne. Odysseus maintains his gimmick until the end. It is evident that he takes pride in the art of disguise. I believe Odysseus trusts Eumaeus and knows he would not have to worry about Eumaeus if he ever told him but I think Odysseus just has a thing for tricking people. He seems to deeply enjoy trickery and sometimes does it when it is not really necessary. I also think it is a bit of an ego thing. Odysseus is obviously very cunning. The readers know it and the characters within the story know it. I think he keeps these disguises because it reminds him of how skillful he is.

Monday, November 19 (7:36 pm)

Tuesday, November 20 (4:45 pm)

(3 hours)

  1. To what extent does the poet present Penelope as Odysseus’ equal?

Penelope and Odysseus evidently share a sense of like-mindedness, homophrosune. Penelope tries to trick Odysseus to make sure it is really him by saying something only they would understand. Not even a god would be able to pick up on it. The way this shows them as equal halves is how Odysseus sort of calls it before Penelope even tries to set him up. Telemachus was expecting Penelope to just fall right back into Odysseus’ arms just believing that her husband is finally back after all these years. Odysseus, however, knows better. He says, “ Telemachus, let your mother test me. She’ll quickly recognize me even better.” Odysseus knows that Penelope would not just believe it was Odysseus so he allows her to test him and prove himself. Penelope tells Eurycleia to spread the bed that Odysseus himself made and bring it outside for him. Odysseus angered by this goes off on a rant about how hard it would be because of how he made the bed. It agitates him but he is also proud that she would not be naïve. Penelope then realizes it is truly Odysseus and they share a hug. Another example of how the two are equal is how they both went on a journey even though only one was physically away. “As when land appears, welcome, to swimmers whose well-made ship Poseidon wrecks upon the sea, pressed hard by wind and mighty wave, and a few escape from the gray sea to the mainland, by swimming, and much sea scum thickens around their flesh, and they gladly step upon the land, escaped from misfortune, that welcome was her husband to her as she beheld him, and she’d wouldn’t at all free her white arms from his neck.” This not only reflects the exact journey that Odysseus went on but it also reflects the journey that Penelope had to face for the 20 years that Odysseus was away.

  1. To what extent may Book 24 be seen as a fitting ending not only to the Odyssey but also the Iliad?

The ending of the Odyssey was also a closing for the Iliad up to a certain extent. Odysseus got reunited with his father which Achilles and Hector were unable to do it. The Iliad ended with Priam joining Achilles and mourning together for Achilles will never be reunited with his father and Priam will never be reunited with his son. The Iliad also closed off with Hectors’ funeral. We never got to see Achilles die so the ending of the Odyssey closed that chapter for the audience as well as Agamemnon, Ajax and Achilles reflect on their deaths.

Thursday, November 29 (2:00 am-5:00 am)

(3 hours)

  1. Is Odysseus a good leader? What evidence is there for and against him?

The great debate of whether Odysseus is a good leader definitely cause some inner turmoil within myself. At the beginning of the story, I vouched for Odysseus all day long because of all the stories told about him. He was described as honorable, he was god fearing, and cunning. Then as we got to Odysseus’ perspective and I saw the discord between him and his men and how he at times made selfish decisions which resulted in the loss of his men, etc. As I have reached the end of this epic poem I have reached the final verdict that I do not consider Odysseus a good leader. I feel like he made a lot of his decisions in his best interest rather than for the greater good. It definitely did not help that his men were mostly airheads that often opposed his ideas and went behind his back and did what they pleased anyway. An example of Odysseus’ selfishness would be when they went through the Scylla fiasco. Odysseus was warned by Circe about Scylla’s strength and he decided he would just not tell his men and continue heading through instead of around all while he had on armor when the rest of his men did not. As a result, some of his men were killed. Then there’s the instance with the Cyclops. Odysseus’ men wanted to take what they could and leave but he insisted on staying to receive gifts not knowing that Cyclopes are uncivilized. After being trapped in there Odysseus once again lost more men and also managed to further anger Poseidon which caused more delays and death. There are occasions where Odysseus shows qualities of being a good leader. For example at the end of the fight scene between him and the suitors, he managed to remain mindful. He did not kill out of lust for blood but because it was necessary. He even spared innocent people and punished everyone accordingly. He even believed he was serving the gods will by giving the suitors what they deserved.

  1. Is Ithaca a better place to live now that he has returned?

I would assume Ithaca is a better place now but not only because Odysseus had returned. I would give the credit to the gods this time. The relatives of the suitors wanted to avenge the deaths of their loved ones. Even after being warned by Medon that the gods were on Odysseus’ side there were still people ready to fight. Athena had to disguise herself as Mentor to give Laertes strength to kills Eupithes, Antinous’ father. She then revealed her true form and orders them to stop fighting. It was only until Zeus willed it and Athena carried the message that peace was finally accomplished.