Free Essay on Homer's Odyssey: Penelope and Odysseus

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Homer's Odyssey: Penelope and Odysseus

Homer revealed the characters' inner thoughts to add to the suspense that builds up in books 19 and 20 of The Odyssey. Some question whether Odysseus was recognized by Penelope and if this helped to build up the intensity of the story. Joseph Russo mentioned this topic in "Interview and Aftermath: Dream, Fantasy and Intuition in Odyssey 19 & 20." The lies told by Odysseus also increased the excitement of The Odyssey.

Russo believed that Penelope, in her subconscious, did recognize Odysseus disguised as a beggar. For example, in Book 19, Penelope revealed her innermost thoughts to Odysseus, who was disguised as the beggar. Russo suggested that unconsciously the beggar reminded Penelope of Odysseus when she invited Odysseus to her room to talk and confided in him about her dreams (14). But there is a different way to look at this part of the book. In class, Thury pointed out not only the outward signs of Penelope's encouragement of him, but also gave reasons to believe she did not think Odysseus was alive.

By telling Odysseus of her dreams Penelope showed trust in him, but by scheduling the contest of the bow, Penelope showed that she believed her husband was never coming back. Russo argues that this was only a defense mechanism. If she were to believe Odysseus was alive, she would be letting her guard down, and she did not want to risk another disappointment (Russo 15). Russo and Thury agree that because of the tension between husband and wife, there is a large amount of excitement and stress in Odysseus' house after he returns.

Odysseus' lies also added to the excitement. These lies were all related to the truth about Odysseus (Thury), and stirred up the people they were told to. For example, Odysseus lied to Eumaios the swineherd. He told him he was a pirate who had lost his crew in the storm and had heard news of Odysseus (14.356). The fact that he claimed Odysseus was alive must have given the swineherd hope of his master's return, even though he denied it (14.405).

Another person Odysseus lied to was Penelope. As a result Homer says she cries, "as she sat listening ... her checks were wetted by these tears she shed for her lord" (19.220-226). Even though she says she does not believe him (19.289), Penelope seems excited by thinking about Odyssseus, enough so, to have a slip of the tongue when she tells Eurykleia to bathe her master (19.
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