On 11/17/20 I actually enjoyed our class discussion. Not that I don’t enjoy any of the other class discussions, but this one was more memorable I guess. I liked how much more freeing the discussion was because we took a mini survey about our favorite book between the Iliad and the Odyssey which led to more interesting conversations. I said that I liked the Iliad more because the Iliad actually held my attention. Over the years, I’ve noticed that it’s hard for me to read or enjoy books assigned in class, but in this book, there was a lot more action going on, along with the involvement of more interesting characters. Plus it involved more gods, and more perspectives. I also really liked our discussion over the topic of “what does it mean to belong”. I personally feel like “belonging” means being somewhere you are comfortable being with or without people. So for example, I might feel like I belong with a certain group of people and somebody else might feel like they belong more when they’re by themselves. It means being accepted for who you are, without judgement.
In book 18, we’re still at the palace and as the evening keeps going, a disrespectful beggar (Arnaeus) shows up and ends up fighting with Odysseus, thanks to Antinous. Odysseus didn’t want to fight him at first but he does to keep up the façade. He doesn’t even really fight the guy, just hits him and jostles him around a bit. Then Odysseus meets Amphinomus whom he likes because he’s not like the other suitors; he’s kind. So because of his kindness, Odysseus decides to semi — warn him about the future of the suitors. Despite this warning, Amphinomus still stays at the palace. Later, Penelope comes down and speaks to the suitors. She tells them that they should give her gifts, which I thought was interesting, because unbeknownst to her, by asking for gifts it helped Odysseus keep up his ruse, like we discussed in class.
I wanted to speak on how free will and fate work hand in hand in a specific part of this chapter. Amphinomus is warned by Odysseus that if he stays, he will meet the horrible fate that’s meant for the rest of the other suitors. So my question is why doesn’t he leave? The poet also kind of hints at the fact that Amphinomus is destined to die. So would it have mattered if he had left? Does his presence affect any aspect of the book/chapter? Or would it have changed anything if he left?
Another thing I noticed was the similarity between Arnaeus and Antinous. Think about it, they’re both mean, disrespectful and somewhat boastful. The only major difference is that one of them is rich and the other isn’t. So I feel like that really is the poet taking a jab at Antinous. He may be financially comfortable, but he’s piss-poor morally which is refleceted through Arnaeus
In book 19, things are starting to get good. I can’t believe the climax is near the end of the book. In this chapter, the suitors are sleeping, so Odysseus and Telemachus take it upon themselves to hide all the weapons in the house as a part of their plan. Odysseus meets with Penelope but still doesn’t tell her who he is. She tells him about her plan to host a contest the next day to finally choose a suitor. I thought this was kind of interesting because she’s had 10 years to choose a suitor and now that her husband is face to face with her, back on the island she decides it’s the right time to pick a new husband. I wonder how she doesn’t recognize him in front of her, and how he feels about her picking a new husband. So, she tells him that the contest is an archery contest and in return he tells her that “Odysseus” will be home in time for the contest. But hold on pause, there’s something I wanted to talk about. How did Odysseus’s childhood nurse, Eurycleia, recognize him by a scar he received as a child on his leg, but not his wife and son? I can understand that Telemachus didn’t recognize him because he never really knew him; only heard stories about him so he had no recollection of him. But his wife the person that’s supposed to know him like the back of her hand cannot seem to see through his little beggar disguise? Was this possibly purposefully done by the poet? Also, it dawned on me how similar me and Telemachus are when talking about him not recognizing his father. When I was born, my dad left 7 months after to come to the United States. The next time I saw him was when I was 3 years old. By then, i was already starting to hear stories by people (namely my mom and siblings) about who he was and how he was. I even remember my mom telling me that when he called on the phone to talk to us, I would ask him to come out of the telephone to see him. The next time I saw him, I was 5 and he brought me and my 3 siblings to America. Then for the next 5 years, I didn’t see my mother who I didn’t remember well because I was 5 when I left her. Anyway, I just thought that was a cool connection I had with Telemachus.
In book 20, a seer Theoclymenus warns the suitors about the omens and signs that he’s been seeing: blood, mist, and ghosts. The suitors, being as dumb as they are, laugh at him, but Amphinomus believes him and tries to warn the other suitors, who also ignore him. In book 21, The contest Penelope told Odysseus about begins. Every one of the suitors take their turn at stringing the bow and arrow, and fail. Even Telemachus tries and fails. Finally, Odysseus asks to string the bow and arrow, which he does with ease. Then he and Telemachus prepare to fight the suitors, along with Eumaeus and the servant Philoetius. That’s all well and good but one thing really piqued my interest in this chapter. How dare Telemachus send his mother to her room? It said in the book:
Go, then, within the house and busy yourself with your daily duties, your loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants. This bow is a man’s matter, and mine above all others, for it is I who am master here. She went wondering back into the house, and laid her son’s saying in her heart.
Excuse me? Isn’t she the adult here? Or is there some unspoken Greek rule about young men with single mothers that I don’t know about?
Below are the discussion questions and my responses to them.
- What forms of mistreatment does Odysseus endure upon returning to his palace? Honestly man, this man went through a lot. He had a real beggar attack him, he received several insults from the goatherd, he had a chair thrown at him, he had some kind of hoof thrown at him and then to top it off he had to watch a lot of other men destroy his house, try to marry his wife and plot to kill his son.
- What is the purpose of this mistreatment from the perspective of the story? I think it did a good job of showing how Odysseus has grown. In several parts earlier in the book, we saw Odysseus’s lack of self-control and his bad decision making skills, but my him interacting with so many forms of mistreatment and enduring them all without blowing his cover, I think he’s grown into a better person with better self-restraint.
- Are there any good suitors? Amphinomus is the one decent suitor we’ve seen so far. It’s not even that he’s good, it’s just that he was less brash and actually listens to Odysseus. I say that because if he was actually good, he wouldn’t have been there in the first place, joining the suitors in destroying someone else’s home.
- 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?
I think Eumaus is really nice. I wouldn’t go as far as saying he’s a hero but yes he does show very good hospitality much like other characters in the book. But I think it’s a little bit different because the other people who have shown hospitality in the book have been significantly richer than Eumaus, so when he shows hospitality I guess you could say it means more coming from him because he doesn’t have a lot to give but he gives anyway. That being said I do think he can be trusted because he was loyal to Odysseus when Odysseus was still rich and he’s so loyal to him after 10 years of not knowing where he was (if he was dead or alive). I think Odysseus doesn’t reveal his identity to him for the same reason that he doesn’t reveal his identity to anyone else that’s not his son. I think he doesn’t tell him who he is because Eumaus might get overexcited and accidentally let something slip or accidentally tell someone which would ruin the plans of Telemachus and Odysseus.