Odyssey Book 20 Analysis Essay

Nausikaa returns to the palace, where a maid prepares her a meal. Odysseus himself eventually heads toward the city and is greeted by Athene, who is disguised as a young girl. Athene offers to guide Odysseus to the palace of Alcinoös. In order to avoid rude inquiry, she forms a magical mist around Odysseus which renders him invisible to his surroundings. Leading him to the palace, Athene tells Odysseus that he will be accepted by the Phaeaceans if he is able to win the favor of the queen, Arete, whose people love her well. Athene then departs from Scheria, and journeys to Athens.

Odysseus admires Alcinoös’ splendid palace, which is worked in finely wrought gold and silver both within and without. There is an orchard outside the courtyard which contains all manner of fruit as well as a vineyard; the fruit stays in season all year round. Entering the palace, Odysseus heads straight for Arete. He grasps her knees in supplication, and as he does so, the mist departs from him. The Phaeaceans are startled by his sudden appearance, but they are impressed by his speech requesting conveyance home.

Alcinoös allows Odysseus to join in their feasting, after which he promises the stranger the use of his magic ships, which can reach any worldly destination and return in a single day. Arete notices the Phaeacean clothing worn by Odysseus, and questions him accordingly. The long-suffering hero sums up for them his shipwreck on Calypso’s isle, his seven years’ detainment there, his calamitous voyage to Scheria, and finally his warm reception by Nausikaa, who lent him the clothing. Alcinoös hints at a marriage between Odysseus and his daughter, who has scorned all other suitors. Odysseus, however, clearly displays his desire to return home. Arete has her servants prepare a bed for Odysseus, and the weary adventurer retires for the evening.


(The entire section is 782 words.)

New Characters
Poseidon: god of the sea, enemy of Odysseus

Zeus: king of the gods

Athene: goddess of wisdom, Odysseus’ patron

Telemachus: Odysseus’ son

Phemius: bard forced to sing for the suitors

Penelope: Odysseus’ wife, mother of Telemachus

Antinoös: leader and most brazen of the suitors

Eurymachus: crafty co-leader of the suitors

Eurycleia: aged maid who nursed both Odysseus and Telemachus

The narrator calls upon the Muse to help him narrate the story of Odysseus’ wanderings and homecoming. We learn that he is imprisoned on Calypso’s island, and that he is the victim of Poseidon’s wrath.

While Poseidon is away receiving a hecatomb, a massive sacrifice, from the Ethiopians, the gods sit in council on Mount Olympus. Zeus mourns the death of Agamemnon, the general who led the Greek forces at Troy, and rues the fact that Aegisthus, Agamemnon’s assassin, did not heed the gods’ warning; now Aegisthus lies slain at the hand of Agamemnon’s avenging son, Orestes. Athene reminds her father that Odysseus still languishes on Calypso’s island due to Poseidon’s wrath. Zeus agrees to send Hermes to command Calypso to release Odysseus; Athene herself plans to descend to Ithaca to stir Telemachus to seek out his father and thereby gain a reputation for himself.

Athene flies down to the palace of Odysseus and disguises herself as Mentes, a trader friend of Odysseus. She is greeted by Telemachus, who draws her away from the suitors who are wildly feasting in his hall. Telemachus explains to Mentes (Athene) that Odysseus is lost and his palace is besieged by voracious young men who waste his father’s goods in his absence. They are suitors seeking the hand of Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, who neither refuses nor accepts their suits.

Athene advises Telemachus to call an assembly to oust the suitors, and then suggests that he take a journey to Pylus and Sparta to seek news of his...

(The entire section is 852 words.)

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