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The Odyssey Book 17 analysis

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Thomas Mullins

on 11 September 2014

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Transcript of The Odyssey Book 17 analysis

Value's and Violations
"Well look at this.... If he's lucky, they'll only splinter on his ribs." (17.236-253) Wit
The Gods
"...Athena/ Drew near him and prompted him/ To go among the suitors and beg for crusts..." (17.389-91) Athena was trying to help Odysseus see if any of the men were still honorable and worthy of mercy when he finally took his house back.
Book 17 Summary
-Odysseus (disguised as a beggar) and Eumaeus travel to town to meet the suitors
-Along the way, they meet Melanthuis the goatherd who directly and intensely insults Odysseus in his disguise, calling him "... [a] walking pile of s**t." (17.238) among other things.
-Afterwards, Odysseus and Eumaeus enter the palace and are once more insulted, this time by the suitors, especially Antinous.
-After Odysseus is through begging from the suitors, he is assaulted by Antonous, who throws a foot stool at him.
-Antinous is harshly criticized by his friends and by Telemachus for his actions
Literary Symbols
1. But the shadow of death descended upon Argus."(17.353) Personification
The Odyssey Book 17 analysis
Chapter 17 is symbolized by the footstools used by the suitors. When Odysseus returns home, the suitors are all resting on them casually. This action mirrors their treatment of his entire estate. The suitors just use everything in his house as if they own it already. As well, Antinous using the chair as a weapon against Odysseus mirrors the actions of many of his servants. Later in the story it is revealed that many of Odysseus's people (Melanthius and the other maids who... slept around) betrayed him for the suitors. In a way, they were originally Odysseus's property, but were made to be weapons that were wielded against him. Following those trains of thought, the foostool serves to be a strong symbol of this book.
Symbol #4
Homer uses strangely direct language when he foreshadows the death of Antinous. Throughout the story, there's at least been a little subtlety to most of the character dialogue. Here, Homer just cuts right past the subtext and directly addresses the reader, almost saying "If you hadn't already guessed, Antinous will die. Just making sure you got that!" As well, this line is a serious shift for Odysseus himself. Even though he's somewhat of a scheming slime (read: the entirety of his dealings with the cyclops.) he's at least somewhat of a politician. He knows when to hide one's true feelings for the sake of personal and political gain. Even being that master tactician he is, he takes a huge risk saying something like that to a suitor. He should definitely know better than to wish for a man's death while he's in the same room. It's almost as if the years of travle and weariness have finally broken him, and its made him move beyond his subtlety and scheming. Now he's ready to go out and brashly fight for his home. In this line, Homer breaks his own mold to foreshadow the death of a rather key character, Antinous.
Eumaeus: Swineherd

Melanthius: Son of Dolius, goatherd

Odysseus: Godlike Survivor, Beggar

Telemachus: Godlike Telemachus
2. "... not that [Athena] had any intention of sparing any of them." (17.334-33) Foreshadowing
3. "It's easy to be generous with someone else's wealth." (17.490) Irony
4. "May death come to Antinuous before marriage does." (17.516) Foreshadowing
"Zeus takes away half a man's worth/ The day he loses his freedom." (17.348-49) Piety
"Godlike Telemachus..." (17.355) Piety
"Why, Antinous, you're just like a father to me... than give any away." (17.430-437) Rhetoric
"He only shook his head/ In silence, and brooded darkly." (17.504-5) Resisting Temptation
"I suppose you don't care that these men are eating away / Your master's wealth, or you wouldn't have invited him." (17.410-11) Abuse of Xenia
"As he spoke he grabbed the footstool and threw it it..." (17.502) Goes Against Xenia
"... Set out for him a helping of meat/ And the housekeepers brought him bread." (17.284-5) Moderation (or lack thereof)
Theme Statement
Homer, through Chapter 17 of the Odyssey, tries to show a facet of the Greek value of a strong body and intellect though Odysseus's sharp retorts, insightful judgements of suitors, and resistance to the physical attacks thrown at him.
1. Why does this book of
the Odyssey have almost zero intervention?

2. Why is Antinous so hateful of the beggar?
"As he spoke he..../
May death come to Antinous before marriage does (17.502-16) Pg. 160
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