The Odyssey: Books 22–24

Wednesday, November 28

We are finally at the big fight scene! Right off the bat, it begins with angry banter and blood. After all of this time, following Odysseus on his journey home and all of his struggles even once he made it to his home, this chapter is very satisfying. Gruesome, but satisfying. Odysseus is not a demigod, so he is not able to experience the emotion of menis, but the poet’s description makes one feel that Odysseus’s rage is almost as close as a mortal could get to that godlike feeling. No lives are spared in this slaughter, not even those of his house maids who ended up being unfaithful to him. In Book 22, we see the father and son reunited through battle. It has been a long time coming, but they work well together. As a reader, this is a beautiful thing to see, having known how long they have both been waiting to be with each other.

We see the growth of Telemachus as he learns from his mentor and his father, their similarities becoming more and more evident, along with the comparison of Penelope and Odysseus. Their homophrosune is more than evident, as we see them test each other in order to be absolutely certain that the loyalty is still there. We see how great of a fit they are for each other, through their wisdom even in these difficult and confusing events. The poet shows how Penelope is Odysseus’s equal, not only in loyalty (Penelope even more so in this case), but also through their grit. One likely thinks of Odysseus first at the mention of that word, but Penelope suffered those 20 years right along with her husband. She was basically alone in her own household, figuring out ways to fend for herself against these suitors. She continuously outsmarted them, and would stand up against them as much as she could. She even found a way to trick them into giving her more gifts! Penelope and Odysseus were made for each other, and by the end of this epic comedy there is no denying this fact.

Book 24 was an excellent ending for these two epic tales, because not only do we see the story of Penelope and Odysseus to completion, but we also hear from the great Achilles, Agamemnon, and even Patroclus again (though they are in the underworld). The legends continue to share their Trojan war stories as Hermes brings the suitors to their new home in the Underworld. Odysseus’s old fighting mates even get some closure, as the suitors tell them of what has happened and why they are all dead now. Also, in the world of the living, Odysseus goes to meet with his father and show him that he is alive. Of course, in Odysseus fashion, he tricks his father at first, actually to the point of bringing the old man to tears. But once Odysseus can take no more and reveals his true identity (through showing the scar on his thigh of course), they have a beautiful, emotional, father and son reunion.

Not only were Telemachus and his father reunited, but also Odysseus and his own father Laertes. Once again, this story has been about uniting relationships unlike the Iliad which was about the separation of not only lovers, but brothers, friends, families, and entire nations. However, the juxtaposition of these two epics creates a beautiful depiction of Greek culture and shows not only the social aspects, but also the morals of the people and the effects of war.

Thursday, November 29

Through reading the Iliad, we are already given an idea of Odysseus’s leadership skills, and it is undeniable that he is one of the greatest ever. The Odyssey only backs this idea up and in greater detail. Odysseus’s wisdom is greater than that of most men, and this is seen time and time again. One could even make the claim that his own mischievous ways make wary of the ways of others. Whenever he and his men got into a predicament, he would give them knowledgeable instruction as to how to successfully beat their opponents. Though he was not perfect and of course made mistakes, Odysseus was one to learn from those mistakes and keep pushing. If this was not the case, then he would have never made it back home to Ithaca! Interestingly enough, even once he made it home and finally defeated the suitors, he was still not able to rest. The people of his own land heard about all of the killing that had taken place in the household of Penelope and Odysseus, and they turned against him! Antinoos’s father definitely stirred the pot amongst the people, seeing that he was angry about the death of his son, but they grouped together and went to attack Odysseus. Yet again, Odysseus was fighting for his life on his own land that he had been waiting so long to return to. However, seeing that he had the help of Athena, the fighting did not last for long. Athena, with no real help from Zeus, finally stopped the two sides from fighting and created a lasting peace between them.

This seems like a somewhat odd ending to the story, but I am not going to complain.

As discussed in class, when you take the perspectives of other people who are reading or experiencing the same thing as you, you add depth to your own knowledge and understanding of the said experience. It was interesting to hear some of the opinions of my fellow classmates and see that there was almost an even split in regard to which story people felt was “worth telling.” I continued to change my answer to that question as the class went on, because I feel both the Iliad and the Odyssey are necessary for having a better understanding of the whole story. The Iliad was more about heartbreak and the Odyssey was more about heartache. Heartbreak meaning the more painful separation of people, while heartache being the longing of being with a person yet again. Both similar but both different.

I feel the Odyssey tells more of the two stories. We experience Penelope and Odysseus’s story, while also still hearing about and seeing the effects of the Trojan war, along with hearing from those who fought in the war! Though they are dead, they are continuing to tell of their triumphs and failures, as that is what you do when you are dead during the time of antiquity. However the Iliad, seems to show more about the relationships between males and the bonds of friendship more so than romantically (even though the entire war was started over a woman). Also, the Iliad seems to show more about the ways of the gods and how fickle they can be at times. Though the Odyssey does show the power of the gods and their intervention at times, it was nowhere near as much as seen in the Iliad, where seemingly every chapter the gods had done something new to change the tides of the war.

Once again, both epics are great in their own respects, but even better when you read them together and are able to use them as references for each other.

If one was to make an analogous comparison between the two books using Greek words, it would probably be: menis is to the Iliad as homophrosune is to the Odyssey. These two words/ ideas drove each of the stories and it was really interesting to analyze how this caused the pieces to fall together within each of the stories.