The epic, The Odyssey, by Homer, depicts the journey of the hero Odysseus as he faces the greatest of obstacles to evolve into a man, preeminent over that of other mortals. In both power and prowess he is unsurpassed, comparable even to the gods themselves at times. In a particular passage within the epic, the powerful nature of this “master mariner and soldier” is exceptionally portrayed, positioned before the revealing of Odysseus’s true identity and his slaughtering of the voracious suitors. Such an opportunity arises when his wife Penelope, brings out the hero’s bow as a test for the suitors, which commend her hand in marriage. As each of the suitors in turn fail to even string the bow, in the hands of Odysseus, a sense of authority long forgotten about the manor is restored, illuminated by Odysseus’s manner and aura. In the passage, Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of Homer’s work, demonstrates Odysseus’s powerful nature through the use of an extended metaphor and a shift in tone, domineering over the suitors and those around him.
The extended metaphor in the passage, as Odysseus is compared to a musician illustrates the control, which he demands in his presence as well as the harmony that he brings to those around him. A musician in a sense is master over his art and instrument, the two intertwined as one, requiring control to produce the notes that bring harmony to the ears of its listeners. The unmatched quality of melodies produced from the instrument come from the touch of those experienced over time. As a bard himself, Homer shines upon comparing his hero to a musician like himself, and in the passage Odysseus is “like a musician, like a harper” (XXI, 404, 461), the “quiet hand upon his instrument” (XXI, 404, 463), the bow. Power through control is demonstrated, as the youthful suitors, even after “[heating] and [greasing] the bow” (XXI, 396, 201) are unable to even string it, whilst “Odysseus in one motion [strings] the bow” (XXI, 404, 466).
“The Odyssey” by Homer is one of the most recognized epics in world literature. It traces the decade-long journey of Odysseus back to Ithaca after he fought in the Trojan War. He was able to survive the dangerous ten-year voyage which he experienced and safely arrive home. Indeed, Odysseus is a truly admirable character, but what what makes him especially laudable is his physical strength, ...
As a musician would tune his instrument, Odysseus takes “his time, turning the bow, tapping it, every inch, for borings” (XXI, 403, 446-48).
The process taken differs greatly to that of the suitors, strong headed in their actions contrasting to the methodical approach of Odysseus, afterward “[sliding] his right hand down the cord, and [plucking] it, so the taut gut vibrating hummed and sang a swallow’s note” (XXI, 404, 467-69).
In his supremacy, Odysseus is able to release at the least a single natural note, replacing the chaos that the suitors bring, and returning the harmony to those in the manor. With his instrument in hand, the predicted killing of the suitors will be dealt out, eliminating the swine and finally uniting Odysseus with son Telemakhos, and wife Penelope, who almost lose all hope of his return. The comparison of Odysseus as a musician puts emphasis on his powerful nature and the harmony he brings to his family and household.
In addition, the shift in tone within the passage from that of tranquility to power emphasizes on Odysseus’s power, and dominance over the suitors. As the theme of music is present within, it is apt that Fitzgerald would incorporate musicality into the passage, in the form of the sounds present. In the first half of the passage the words are soft, consisting of light ‘t’ and ‘s’ sounds, creating a sense of ease in the task that the suitors find unachievable. “And Odysseus took his time, turning the bow, tapping it” (XXI, 403, 446-47), the alliteration of the ‘t’ in the extract, illustrating the control which Odysseus has over the bow, the ‘t’ in time, as they attempt to break the bow down. The passage develops into soft ‘s’ sounds, onomatopoeia, as they represent the notes from the strumming of the strings; as “the man skilled in all ways of contending” (XXI, 404, 459), the ‘s’ in skilled, emphasizing again on the greatness of Odysseus’s skills, eminent over the suitors and all others alike, as “a sweet new string upon a peg: so effortlessly”(XXI, 404, 465) he strings the bow, again the alliteration of ‘s’ and the long ‘s’ in effortlessly, demonstrating the effortlessness in mastering the bow.
The Theme of Vengeance in Homer's Odyssey Homers epic poem The Odyssey a tale of Odysseus journey home. This is a story of a warrior named Odysseus and his 20 year expedition to his home Ithaca. A dominant theme in The Odyssey is vengeance; It is exemplified through Poseidon and his son, Polyphemus and through Odysseus and his son Telemachus battle with the suitors. To clarify, Poseidon takes ...
“Odysseus in one motion [strings] the bow. Then [slides] his hand down the cord and [plucks] it”, again the ‘s’ sounds representing the smoothness of his actions. The alliteration and onomatopoeia present in the first half of the passage, demonstrates the ease with which Odysseus takes to string the bow, his actions divergent from the complexity of the suitors, which are to no avail. Furthermore, the enjambment between the lines, represent a water like flow in Odysseus’s measures, free of punctuation, creating a sense of tranquil efficience in his stringing the bow, “when / with quiet hand upon his instrument / he draws between his thumb and forefinger / a sweet new string upon a peg” (XXI, 404, 463-65).
This tranquility portrayed throughout the passage, highlights Odysseus’s superiority and dominance over all.
Accordingly, with bow in hand, Odysseus looms over the suitors, the sounds in the second half of the passage growing harder to display confidence and bring across Odysseus’s authority over those in the manor. The soft ‘t’ and ‘s’ are replaced with a harder yet subtle ‘k’, a transition between quiet peace and tranquility to a louder dominance with the acquired weapon. However, although the sounds develop to become harder, the consonance of ‘k’ sounds, keeps its own softness, which would not be present if Fitzgerald had used instead, strong ‘d’ sounds. The combination of power with a touch of downy brings out Odysseus’s dominance over the suitors and his ease in doing so. “Zeus thundered overhead, one loud crack for a sign” and “the son of crooked-minded Kronos had flung that omen down” (XXI, 404, 471-74), the piercing ‘k’ in crack, focuses on the omen of death for the suitors by the great Zeus himself, a sign of support for Odysseus as he will slaughter the suitors, aids in the building of self confidence as he knows that the gods support him. As Odysseus prepares to fire the first arrow from his bow, “he nocked” (XXI, 404, 478) the arrow against the bow, the harder ‘k’ sound placing emphasis on Odysseus’s preparation to kill, divided from the quiet peace in the previous half of the passage. The structure of the extracts, incorporate less enjambment between the lines, but possess more periods and punctuation as the epic develops, representing a straight forwardness, moving from tranquil flowing description to direct and powerful action. Odysseus’s power and confidence have grown through the passage and the shifts in tone, finally “flashes” an “arrow from twanging bow clean as a whistle through every socket ring, and grazed not one, to thud with heavy brazen head beyond” (XXI, 404-5, 481-84).
Douglas Steward is a very highly regarded writer. In his works that focused on, 'The Disguised Guest,' he explains his views of Odysseus's elf struggles that appear when he arrives back home. His point of views toward the mental and physical struggles that Odysseus goes through are hard to disagree with. He puts a strong emphasis on the effect that others are going to have on him, when he reveals ...
Odysseus has done with such great ease and perfection what no other in the manor could have possibly managed, and with this he enters battle with final words to his son, “Telemakhos, the stranger you welcomed in your hall has not disgraced you, I did not miss, neither did I take all day stringing the bow” (XXI, 405, 487-89).
The shift in tone resonates from that of tranquility and control to power, the contrast emphasizing on Odysseus’s dominance as he heads into battle to rid his home of swine.
Homer utilizes this passage within the epic to represent the powerful spirit and nature of Odysseus. His superiority over men develops throughout the epic, but it is at this point where he is compared to the suitors, strong in their youth and so easily dominates them within his own home after years of anguish. The stringing of the bow by this hero brings harmony to the people around, as order is once again restored, in the return of a husband, father, and master over people. The havoc brought by the suitors is abolished in their subsequent death and replaced with peace, once present within the walls of the manor and the land of Ithaka, the arduous trial accomplished only by the power of Odysseus and the gods that befriend him so.
List of Sources
Homer. The odyssey. New York: Vintage Books. 1990.