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The Odyssey: Book 21
Transcript of The Odyssey: Book 21
Revenge- The vengeance that will be wreaked is close at hand and is easy to see and understand through O's anger
Fate- references to destiny and fate abound; it is in the hands of the gods now Theme Odysseus's Hero Traits Traits
Self Control- Odysseus manages to keep his rage in check until the moment he chooses to reveal his true strength, in a strategic move.
Deceit- Odysseus maintains his disguise as a meek, unimportant beggar.
Honor and Loyalty- Page 392, Lines 35-38
"But Herakles killed Iphitos
before one friends could play host to the other.
And Lord Odysseus would not take the bow
in the black ships to the great war at Troy."
Extreme Superior Strength and Skill- Exhibited when Odysseus strings the bow and shoots the arrow through every socket ring. Telemakhos's Hero Traits Traits
Strength- page 395, lines 142-148
"Three times he put his back into it and sprang it, three times he had to slack off. Still he meant
to string that bow and pull for the needle shot.
A fourth try and he had it all but strung-
when a stiffening in Odysseus made him check."
Deceit- Page 395, lines 149-154
"Abruptly then he stopped and turned and said:
'Blast and damn it, must I be a milksop
all my life? Half-grown, all thumbs,
no strength or knack at arms, to defend myself
if someone picks a fight with me.
O my elders and betters, try the bow,
run off the contest."
Page 405, Line 496- Telemakhos is described as the "true son of King Odysseus," implying that he deserves to be called Odysseus's son because he is worthy of him and possesses his strength and cunning; it's also an indication of Telemakhos's own awakening and strengthening, and becoming into a hero. At this stage, the hero cycle is nearly complete. All that is left is the final battle and perhaps the "true" homecoming. This entire chapter has foreshadowing and it is very clear that the final battle is close at hand; we can almost taste the massacre. Book 21 The Odyssey Penelope announces a contest in which the prevailing suitor (the one who is able to string Odysseus's great bow and shoot an arrow through a line of 12 axes) will get to marry her and retrieves Odysseus's great bow from a secret storeroom in the palace. For sport, Telemachus attempts to string the bow and fails three times. He is about to succeed on his fourth try when Odysseus privately signals him to back off. The suitors then take their turns, all of their efforts failing. As the suitors do their thing, Odysseus meets outside with his servants Eumaeus and Philoetius, reveals his true identity, and enlists their support in his plan. Meanwhile, the suitors continue to struggle with the bow. Antinoos suggests that the contest be moved to tomorrow, but then Odysseus asks if he might try, an idea that Penelope strongly supports. Odysseus easily strings the weapon and pretty much shows everyone up. The suitors are stunned that they have been beaten by a beggar, but it is then obvious to everyone that the beggar has been Odysseus all along. Then he and Telemachus move closer to each other. . . The Test of the Bow Music Epic Simile Page 404, lines 460-466
"But the man skilled in all ways of contending,
satisfied by the great bow's look and heft,
like a musician, like a harper, when
with quiet hand upon his instrument
he draws between his thumb and forefinger
a sweet new string upon a peg; so effortlessly
Odysseus in one motion strung the bow."
This simile brings to attention the delicate and knowing, skilled way in which an expert musician is able to control and pluck his instrument, smooth and unconsciously; Odysseus, in this way, strings his great and legendary bow that only allows the best to string it. Odysseus is compared to a musician that has quiet and enormous skill and is able to create sweet music from a simple instrument with unparalleled ease and dexterity; likewise, Odysseus is able to handle his bow in a powerful, royal, smooth way that shows how superior and adept he is. Foreshadowing Page 404, Lines 475-477
"He picked one ready arrow from his table
where it lay bare: the rest were waiting still
in the quiver for the young men's turn to come."
Page 394, Lines 107-111
destined to be the first of all to savor
blood from a biting arrow at his throat,
a shaft drawn by the fingers of Odysseus
whom he had mocked and plundered, leading on
the rest, his boon companions."
These examples of foreshadowing that are dispersed throughout Book 21 all create a mood of building action, of a charged environment that is awaiting it's burst of cracking thunder; it builds suspense. They also provide insight on who is going to die and how, and also stresses a vital theme of the book and whole story: revenge. It also portrays the
belief of fate, which was very important to these people. These examples all show the fates of the men, already decided and planned out, how they are going to die, by whom, by what, and in which order. Discussion Questions Question Quiz What must the suitors do to earn
Penelope 's hand in marriage?
2. How (or from whom [or both]) did Odysseus come into possession of his mighty bow?
3. What did the suitors do to the bow to make it easier to string?
4. How does Odysseus prove to Melanthios and Eumaios that he is, in fact, Odysseus?
5. Odysseus sent a signal to Telemakhos using body language; why? 1. Now that everything is coming to a head, how will the family and country react as a whole?
2. If you were Odysseus, would you ever be able to forgive the suitors for their heinous crimes? Why or why not?
3. Is it really all in the hands of the gods or is it safe to say that most of it is human intervention with blame shifted to an unquestionable authority (the gods)? Mood, Diction, and Imagery Page 391, Lines 1-3
"Upon Penelope, most worn in love and thought,
Athena cast a glance like a grey sea, lifting her.
Page 404, Lines 470-471
"In the hushed hall it smote the suitors
and all their faces changed."
Page 403, Lines 425-428
"Telemakhos' frenzy struck someone as funny,
and soon the whole room roared with laughter at him, so that all tension passed.
Page 405, Lines 495-499
". . . belted his sword on, clapped hand to spear,
and with a clink and glitter of keen bronze. . ." Summary 1.