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Cunningness As The Main Theme In The Odyssey

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If the Iliad is concerning strength, the Odyssey is concerning cunningness. This distinction becomes apparent within the initial lines of the epic. Whereas the Iliad poem tells the story of Achilles, the strongest hero within the Greek army, the Odyssey focuses on a “man of twists and turns” (1.1). A mythical being will have extraordinary strength, as he demonstrates in Book 21 by being the sole man who will string the bow. However, he depends rather more on the mind than muscle, which his encounters showcase. He is aware that he cannot overpower Polyphemus, for instance, and that, albeit he was ready to do this, he wouldn’t be ready to budge the boulder from the door. He, therefore, schemes around his disadvantage in strength by exploiting Polyphemus’s stupidity. The novel, The Odyssey, by Homer is a popular classic that is part of the curriculum for many high school and college English classes. Book 19 of The Odyssey covers the meeting of Odysseus and Penelope. In several respects, this encounter is that the climax of the best dramatic intensity within the entire story and at the terrible heart of the scene the dream. Penelope dreams of the twenty geese that are suddenly slaughtered by a mountain eagle. Penelope is the wife of the hero Odysseus. Together, they had one son, Telemachus. Homer's Odyssey tells the story of how, during her husband's long absence after the Trojan War, many chieftains of Ithaca and nearby islands become her suitors. Upon Odysseus' return, he disgusts himself as a beggar and Penelope relates the dream to him.

The iconic dream that Penelope has relates to Odysseus. Odysseus is disguised as a guest in her house. The dream represents the return of her husband, Odysseus, and is prophetic because it also refers to the way that Odysseus will slay the suitors who gather in a mass around his wife. Note how Penelope describes the dream: “Twenty geese I have in the house that come forth from the water and eat wheat, and my heart warms with joy as I watch them. But forth from the mountain there came a great eagle with crooked beak and broke all their necks and killed them; and they lay strewn in a heap in the halls, while he was borne aloft to the bright sky.”

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In The Odyssey of Homer, sleep is a way to point out completely different aspects of the book and of specific characters, likewise. For instance, sleep is employed in several things involving Odysseus as a transition between one section of the story and another. Sleep is usually coupled with inattentiveness and is a few things that can't be avoided though it should yield negative consequences (i.e. once Odysseus falls asleep at the helm of his ship and consequently, his unwatched men cause bad luck, causation him “off the map” of his far-famed world). Sleep, and, specifically, dreams, issue greatly into the psyche of Penelope, Odysseus’ long-suffering better half. Her dreams in sleep, as told to others by her, offers Odysseus an honest, nonetheless confusing read into her subconscious.

A dream of Penelope’s that lends itself to interpretation is, of course, her dream of the twenty beloved geese. She tells this dream to the disguised “beggar” Odysseus, narrating the distress she felt once she saw the twenty geese heaped-up inside the hall, their necks were broken by the enormous eagle. She says: “Still in my dreams, I wept and wailed” (pg, 397, Book XIX), showing what quantity it offended her to visualize these geese dead. Nonetheless, the eagle, who is self-proclaimed as her husband, says these geese were her suitors which she had seen what was to be: the return of her husband and therefore the end of the suitors. Still, this dream doesn't comfort her. Thus, what will it mean for Penelope to be unhappy once the “suitor” geese are slain by the “eagle” husband? Wouldn’t she rejoice rather than lament? One would suppose thus, nonetheless her words to the disguised Odysseus and her actions lead one to believe various things concerning what her true thoughts are on this dream.

Penelope tells the disguised Odysseus that she doesn’t suppose the dream is true, that her husband won’t come back home: “Yet my strange dream did not- I think- come out of the gate of horn,” she says, speaking of the gate which dreams come out that foretell what will truthfully come, “for if it had, it would have made my son and me rejoice” (pg 398, Book XIX) Outwardly, she says that she doesn’t believe her dream is true as the result of it failed to bring her happiness. However, her actions after this dream tell one thing greatly different. When telling the disguised Odysseus that she doesn’t believe her dreams, she then states that she has set she's going to have a contest between the suitors, that “the man most deft, whose hands will string the bow, then shoot through all those ax heads with one arrow-he are going to be the one with whom I’ll go…” (pg. 398, Book XIX). Penelope has devised this wily and not possible exploit (except for Odysseus, of course) that the suitors don't have any probability of accomplishing. Therefore, if she says that she has given up hope of Odysseus’ come, why would she create her suitors attempt such an impossible task, and consequently delay her re-marriage? The explanation lies in this: she has clearly not given up hope that her husband remains alive, and notwithstanding she tells others that she has given up hope, her subconscious shows this can be not true. If she really thought Odysseus was dead, she wouldn’t have created this elaborate and not possible contest.

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Cunningness As The Main Theme In The Odyssey. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from
“Cunningness As The Main Theme In The Odyssey.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022,
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