The Odyssey Book 24

There are many parallels in the last book of the epic with the other twenty-three, however, there are also some inconsistencies found in the characterization and resolving themes of the poem as a whole.  The first really big theme the characters talk about at the beginning of Book 24 deals with death and how everyone who is in the underworld at the time views it.  Agamemnon died without any glory because his wife killed him after he had returned home, Achilles says “If only you had died your death in the full flush of the glory you had mastered-died on Trojan soil” (Page 483).  It would be more glorious to die fighting rather than by some other means.  This is in total contrast to the whole idea of Odysseus trying to get back home to his wife and son.  Without Odysseus having died in battle he has to go back to Ithaca and face a life of being a farmer instead of a glorious warrior fighting everyday.

In the same scene Agamemnon is praising Penelope where in Book 11 he was saying that she was going to turn on Odysseus and that women could not be trusted.  “I tell you this-bear in mind, you must-when you reach your homeland steer your ship into port in secret, never out in the open . . . the time for trusting women’s gone forever” (Page 339).  He strives to warn Odysseus against trusting women because his wife killed him when he returned home from Troy and does not want the same fate for Odysseus.  Agamemnon goes on to praise Penelope in the final book, “what a fine, faithful wife you won!  What good sense resided in your Penelope” (Page 487).  He seems to change his mind about women and the fact that Penelope remained so faithful to Odysseus throughout the years when he hears from the suitors.  He actually seems to want to congratulate Penelope for her faithfulness.  He was so overjoyed that a woman could withstand being alone for twenty years he put more store in Penelope’s faithfulness than with the suitors complaining about being dead.

Honor is another very important theme to the Greeks and how someone died gave more prominence to how well people remembered them and honored them after they were gone.  Achilles was a warrior who had the most favorable death for a Homeric hero; he died at the glorious battlefield of Troy fighting against the ‘enemy.’  Even though he had previously told Odysseus that death was not something to wish for the legacy he left behind him honored the line of his family.  Agamemnon even says, “You were dear to the gods, so even in death your name will never die . . . great glory is your, Achilles, for all time, in the eyes of all mankind”  (Page 485).  Achilles will be remembered for what he did during his life because he maintained his honor by fighting for his people.  It seems to be a continuation of the ongoing theme throughout the epic that is just even more reinforced by Agamemnon’s words.

Odysseus’s character type also remains quite the same when he still wants to test people and does not trust anyone around him.  Even with his own father that he had not seen in twenty years, instead of going to embrace him he tell Laertes that he is someone else entirely.  It seems almost ridiculous that even after Odysseus has achieved his goal and made it home that he would still want to try and test those around him.  He did the same thing when he met Athena on the beaches; he told her that he was someone else, lying to her the whole entire time.  Odysseus’s lack of trust is blatantly apparent throughout all twenty-four books.  He sits down when he first arrives in Ithaca to could his gifts from the Phoenicians to make sure that they did not take any of what they had given him.  It is so important for him to come back with things and to be acknowledged for everything that he has had to go through.  He even had to verify Penelope’s loyalty throughout the years by questioning her and hiding his identity.  Although it seems that is a great many ways Penelope was just as cunning as Odysseus.  He cannot let his guard down after so many years of being on his own and having to survive the various trials he faced.

Although when he sees his father disheartened by his lie he cannot resist telling him that he is Odysseus.  Even though he could not resist telling Polyphemus who he was either that was for the acknowledgment that he had done something whereas in the case with his father it was not for any such reason.  The brief episode seems a little out of character for someone of Odysseus statue, even though he really did not have anything to hide in the first place his reaction seems odd.

Another odd characteristic point of Odysseus is when the remaining relatives of the killed suitors mention the fact that they have to find Odysseus before he flees.  Although throughout the rest of the book Odysseus had tried everything he could to make it back home.  He was not scared to face anything to make it back to Ithaca, so putting the thought into the readers mind that he might takes away from the point of his journey home.  As well as the fact that Odysseus was a Homeric hero in every sense of the word and would not flee in the face of opposition.  (Page 493) The last verse in the epic says that Odysseus was “glad at heart” that Athena had stopped him from going after the relatives of the suitors (Page 495).  This seems uncharacteristic of the Odysseus who could put up a fight at any time.

The gods took favorites like Athena to Odysseus, as she wanted to try and help him throughout his whole entire adventure.  However, since the gods have immortality they do not care especially much to what happens in the human realm.  Zeus on the other hand in the final book seems to care overly much that Odysseus should not have any consequences from the families of the suitors for killing them.  Zeus even comes up with a way where Odysseus would not be blamed, “Now that royal Odysseus has taken his revenge, let both sides seal their pacts that he shall reign for life, and let us purge their memories of the bloody slaughter of their brothers and their sons.  Let then be friends, devoted as in the old days.  Let peace and wealth come cresting through the land” (Page 494).  Athena also shows compassion for the relatives of the suitors, which she did not show to the suitors at all.  She even tells Odysseus to stop at the end from going after them.

Even though there seem to be some thematic and characteristic discrepancies the twenty-fourth book seems to fit in relatively well with the rest of the epic.

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~ by wolfangel87 on July 27, 2010.

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