October 7: Odyssey, books 22-24


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October 7: Odyssey, books 22-24 >I'm not really sure how I feel about the issue of Odysseus having his house fumigated after the suitors are gone. I understand the significance, but I wonder if anyone else feels as though it is a bit over the top? Unless it was a ritual to rid evil things in people's houses1. Even though this isn't my first time reading the book, I love the ending more and more. Just the typical adventure story ending with the big action scene, and there is always the second uprising of violence that is always put down by something small (in this case Athena). Also, I like the fact that Penelope doesn't think the beggar is Odysseus at first because it confirms that even though she was emotionally distraught, she still keeps her "guard up."

>-Finally we get to the scene that the whole book has been building up to. -Athena gives Odysseus strength to fight by telling him he isn’t strong enough—this works and she also joins to help them disguised as Mentor. - Lot of animal visionary after battle - Telemachos really has changed. He fights like a man in the battle and he also stands up and suggests hanging the disloyal servants instead of be-heading them because hanging is considered more of a disgrace. -They are all very tricky and witty. Penelope’s cleverness is seen when she tries to see if Odysseus is actually himself and she talks about moving her marital bed, which in reality cannot be moved. This just proves why they all love each other/that they are all related, they all share the love for the use of trickery and wit. -How are the suitors in Hades if they aren’t properly buried?2 -Finally Odysseus and his father, Laertes, are reunited. -Ironic how Antinoos’ father, Eupeithes, is the only one killed in the final battle before Athena with her power calls the battle off and everything goes back to normal. > The intervention of the gods (in this case Athene) is very prominent in the battle against the suitors: she ensures that the suitors keep missing, that they “lost their wits,” etc., and encourages Odysseus as Mentor. It seems like winning the battle wouldn’t have been possible without her; even with Telemachos and the oxherd and swineherd helping it was still four men against 100+ suitors. The combination of Athene’s help, Odysseus’s skill, the help from his son and the other two, and the suitors’ inexperience is what truly won the battle.


The fumigation of the house is for ritual purification after bloodshed. It’s unclean work, so the

cleaning up is left to the disloyal made servants, who are then killed. How this execution itself is not polluting is less easy to understand. 2

In book 11, Elpenor is already in Hades, though unburied. He wants proper burial so that he

can be properly remembered. The suitors are buried at 24.417. October 7, 2010


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I liked the scene when Penelope comes down and sees Odysseus—I can definitely picture it as a movie: the dramatic music, her hanging back, them staring at each other. I found it funny how they both say “You are so strange,” but in a sense it’s true because they are getting to know each other again. Odysseus’s anger about the bed being moved was a good way of proving himself to Penelope because it was emotional, passionate and impulsive, showing he wasn’t acting. One might even think Penelope mentioned it to see if he would react. I was disappointed that she doesn’t show up at all in the last chapter, and neither did Telemachos—only Odysseus’ father. I also found the ending less-than-exciting
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>If Penelope’s kleos is ultimately dependent on Odysseus, then suitors’ desiring her will be also their desiring his status as king. Yet her/his public kleos as queen/king can be brought back only when Penelope recognizes Odysseus as a personal(familial) figure: he uses the most private fact about his(or their) bed as a key evidence, thereby assuring her of his identity. It is because of this paradox – public kleos consisting of private matters – that Odysseus’ family must be constantly suspecting and that suitors are doomed to fail to marry Penelope.

>Wow. I felt like this was a really 'packed' set of Books (Yep! I remembered!), so I'll try to just stick to the parts that really stumped me. ¶1. In your notes, you mentioned that there's a possibility that the last Book may not have been intended to be part of the original poem. Upon reading Book XXIV, I realized something that might help prove your stance. The final book begins with a description of Hermes leading the suitors down to Hades. If you'll recall in Book XI, Elpenor asks Odysseus for a proper burial, so that he will be able to make his passage to the underworld. I was unable to find any passages that mentioned the suitors being buried: Therefore, is it safe to say that there's no way they would have been able to make a passage to the underworld if they didn't first undergo a proper burial? Or, is there a possibility that the final book takes place some time later, and it is up to the audience to assume that Odysseus had them properly buried in between Books XXIII and XXIV? If not, this would prove to be a major inconsistency between the writing of the last Book and the rest of the poem. As far as 'loose-threads' go, this one baffled me. ¶2. I was a little confused over the issue of the bed, in Book XXIII. Has Odysseus' bed been moved by one of the suitors? Or is Penelope urging Eurykleia to move it "outside the well-fashioned chamber"? Regardless, I was under the impression that Penelope's mentioning of it held some significance: When Odysseus recounts the way he built it, Penelope "recognizes the clear proofs that Odysseus had given". You asked in your notes "what kind of powers does Penelope have to determine who claims the bedroom?". To answer your question, I would claim its the ability she has (and shares with Odysseus) to outwit and cleverly deceive people to achieve her objectives (not dissimilar to the loom used to trick the suitors). By prompting Odysseus to describe how he built the bed, she is able to MAKE SURE that Odysseus is actually the man he claims he is, and not a trick sent from the gods. Odysseus, in his anger, plays right into her deception and gives her what she's looking for.

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>The ending was climactic I guess but not too interesting. It was a repeat of the rest of the novel and no new themes came in which I was a little disappointed in. Penelope and Odysseus are tricksters and must trick each other in order to begin their relationship. Hospitality is in question. The gods help those who need it and forsake the bad. What else to say? >In the last few books of the Odyssey, Odysseus demonstrated his strength, with the help of Athene, and his cleverness. All the bonds are mended with the revelation of Odysseus's homecoming. Those who mistreated that of Odysseus received their punishment and the others were left to enjoy dancing and feast. Before Penelope and Laertes could believe that the man before them is Odysseus, he has to prove himself by describing something only he and the individual know. The scar is a helpful mark, but he also describes how is bed was built or which vines of the orchard he requested. ¶His homecoming can be compared to Jesus' return to Earth. Odysseus is a well respected man who went away for a long time and he returns to get back that which he lost and punish those who disgraced him. Once Odysseus kills all the suitors and the ill-fated maidservants, he cleans out his home by burning sulphur and wipes everything down. Then he throws a big celebration, which can be seen as the heaven-on-earth to be made after Christ comes again. There are many details that make Odysseus's homecoming different from the one described of Christ. In fact, the story I am familiar with states that Jesus will come back with fire and only the honorable people will go up into heaven with him. Once all the wrong-doers are punished and sent away, heaven will be made on Earth. This is what Telemachos pictured for his father's homecoming; he envisioned a great wrath wiping out the suitors at once and Odysseus's palace and reign is restored. >Throughout the epic we have noted the indirect approach that Odysseus has chosen. Guile and indirection, however, are more often noted in women, not men. Does this make Odysseus unmanly? I think not, rather, I believe this goes to show that success does not necessarily in gender stereotypes. The strong man may win, but a disguised man may win, all the same. Furthermore, Penelope has played the role of king, in a way, causing her to tap into her "manly side," if you will. To combine these ideas, could it be that by liberating ourselves from gender roles we may discover a new world with more opportunities? In other words, I believe that by crossing gender roles Penelope and Odysseus have accomplished success that may not have otherwise occurred. >I found Odysseus reaction when he saw his father very interesting because he reacted in almost a similar way to the way Penelope reacted. He did not know what to do and was speechless. He finally decided to give an story that was talking about him before revealing himself. I think that Telemachos and Odysseus had an unnecessarily sharp reaction to Penelope especially given that Odysseus reacted in a much similar way. I was wondering why Athene decided to show up as Mentor during the fight. Could it be that it was to represent a clash of generations? Those who had gone to war against those who hadn't.

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"...I would have sent her back to the hall in a hateful fashion for doing it. It shall be your age thta saves you." Penelope's reaction to Eurykleia shows a side of her we hadn't seen before. Previously she looked weak, always crying but in her reaction she seemed firm and 'dangerous'. >On page 329, line 309, Homer says that the "floor was smoking with blood" after the defeat and death of all the suitors. I have never heard this expression before, and the only similar expression, that i can think of, would be 'smoking hot.' Is there any insight to be gained from this expression? What does this description tell us about the aftermath?3 ¶On page 326, line 194, Homer suddenly breaks from his third person manner of storytelling to second person: "then you spoke and jeered at him, O swineheard Eumaios." Why this break or apostrophe? What effect does this figure of speech or narrative mode have on our understanding of the story at this point?4 ¶I thought that the story ended with a lightning bolt from zeus, in as much as he'd made the decision to 'stay out of it' for the greater part of this epic. That he should now feel inspired to intervene astounds me because i do not understand how he decides that now is the time to act. How could this battle evoke Zeus's wrath? Was not the matter of Odysseus relegated to his daughter, Athene?5

>I thought two events from the final battle scene were very important to discuss. Telemachos at the start of the battle makes a crucial error and leaves the door open, allowing the suitors to arm themselves. It seems that so much of the tale up to this point has been about his coming of age, his education, and his learning to be crafty or tricky. There is nothing crafty or educated about leaving open the door to a room full of weapons. But this action connects the son to the father. We see here that like Odysseus, Telemachos may have learned to be cunning, but this cunning does not make someone infallible. Odysseus mistakenly reveals himself to the Cyclops and Poseidon, nearly destroying all of his companions in the process. It seems that Telemachos is becoming like his father in multiple aspects. The Greek word means “seethe” or “rage.” Seas and rivers can “seethe.” Probably the figure here is of a flood of blood, perhaps with some reference to the fact that there was steam from the body-temperature blood on the cold floor. Lattimore’s “smoked” is distracting, but the image in the original is unique and forceful. 3

Eumaios is apostrophized (i.e., addressed directly by the poet) some fifteen times in the Odyssey, perhaps for metrical reasons. It may be that Eumaios as a character is largely the creation of the Odyssey poet, who has to adapt a pre-existing formula (i.e., fixed and repeating set of words) in order to give the swineherd his own formulae and can manage it only in the second person. In the Iliad, the poet addresses Achilles’ sidekick Patroklos for pathetic effect, and even addresses Achilles himself once. Some interpreters think that the address to Eumaios suggests the poet’s particularly sympathy for the swineherd. 4

The broad use of the Olympians to end the story has problems. Zeus’s bolt lands in front of Athene to spur her to action, so as usual he acts through her. 5

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¶I also find it humorous that Odysseus spares the lives of the herald and the singer during the battle. I feel that he does so not because he feels they are innocent, but because they fear him and are willing to sing and proliferate his name and extend his exploits among the people.

Slavery > Early on in the reading, this book reminded me of Hamlet. Some of the similarities were maintained throughout the novel, but later on in the epic, I couldn't help but think of another reading that the book resembled; this book is actually quite similar to Frederick Douglass's narrative. 1. Both Douglass and Odysseus are portrayed explicitly as slaves. 2. Both men are very clever, using carefully planned dialogue to handle difficult situations (ie. Douglass's exchange with Mr.Covey/Odysseus's frequent trickery). 3. They both resort to physical violence and revenge to protect themselves. 4. Both had been separated from their families. 5. Through the telling of their stories, they've both managed to become "immortal". >In contrast to the previous slave narratives, the slaves in the odyssey show no solidarity. They are not one unit for or against their master. There are factions and hatred amongst different slaves. Perhaps their existence is less harsh and they do not need the communal brotherhood to help support one another. The sense of community and solidarity is lacking among the Greek slaves >Upon reading the final books of the Odyssey, I was very shocked at the brutality of Telemachus

and Odysseus towards the maidservants. It seemed completely cruel to sentence them to death for simply being involved with the suitors. It didn't really seem that any of them had truly turned against Penelope considering that they continued to help the house run smoothly despite the absolute anarchy of the situation. The death sentence seemed bad enough, but when Telemachus turned against his fathers orders and hangs the women as opposed to simply killing them swiftly by sword, I was shocked and disgusted. It seemed so unnecessary for him to completely dishonor these women in addition to killing them. It made me severely question his moral compass and his ability to take over after his father. I couldn't believe it when I read it and I still can't believe it now.

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October 7: Odyssey, books 22-24

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