The Odyssey, books 13-24

by Edie Wadsworth on September 30, 2012


I’m so sad that we’re finished with The Odyssey!
Don’t you feel like it changed you?
Great books get under our skin and make us see the world differently.
I hope you enjoyed it and I hope it’s magic will live in your heart for a long time to come.

I’m sorry if this video feels rushed but I was trying to finish under 15 minutes because of YouTube’s uploading rules.
I hope you’ll make your final comments on the book on THIS post instead of the forum this time and we’ll discuss as long as you’d like!

This book was a great preparation for the 31 days series, which will go live at 9pm tonight! I’m committing to writing every day for 31 days about hospitality (or xenia as it’s called in Greek). I hope you’ll join me later this evening for the first post of many on my very favorite topic.

Our next book is Antigone by Sophocles. I’m using the following translation but feel free to use what you’d like.

I promise I’ll post the rest of the books soon. I’ve most certainly got too many irons in the fire!

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nena September 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Thank you Edie for choosing this book. I have read it, pondered
it and talked about it with my family and friends. I feel as if these themes are ageless and constant. The king is away. The home is in disarray. Penelope is using every devise to stay faithful and is being pressed to give up on her marriage and to move on. The entire household will prosper when the king returns. Order will be restored and everyone will know his place. Justice prevails and loyalty is rewarded. Themes of good, evil, hope, deceit, intrigue, murder and love are repeated throughout the ages. It started with Homer and continues on in the literature of today. These characters will stay with me for a long time!

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2 Megan September 30, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Edie, thank you for choosing this as our first read. My mind has been opened, my spirit stretched, and my heart warmed. I can completely see the spiritual parallels, and at the same time the reality in it all. My own father was killed in a plane crash when I was just 19 years old. And so because of this, I can relate to Penelope’s longing for her dear husband’s return. For this reason, some of it was difficult to read. I pictured my own mother, years later, still longing. The one phrase that I held on to was “but no good came to them from their lamenting”. Ah! How many times do I believe that sorrow and pity could possibly thrust me forward! Excellent book. I’ve learned so much. Also, these videos were SO helpful. It shed so much light, and were completely enjoyable to watch! :)

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3 Evie B September 30, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Thanks so much for choosing this book and starting the book club. I found it flexible enough to be doable and the structure has definitely kept me accountable. One thing I found myself struck by in The Odyssey was the amount of damage and violence Odysseus wreaked on the household and suitors when he returned. I know he was a big war hero and a strong character but I actually think that someone as his character is described would have more discipline/self control. Still pondering that one but his actions seemed over the top and disturbing. Not sure how they all would be able to just clean up the mess and move on. I would be interested in other people’s reaction to this part of the book.
Looking forward to Antigone although I may feel “just a wee bit intimidated” when I hear the name Sophocles!

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4 Jackie McMahan September 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm

I am a bit behind –only half through the Odyssey. I really enjoyed listening to this video and am looking forward to the second half of the book. One thing that has bothered me is how Odysseus has relationships with two different goddesses while he is away and I guess I only bring this up because of the emphasis on their strong marriage. Do any of your translator notes or your lectures discuss this topic?

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5 laura@libertyfarmchronicles October 1, 2012 at 8:35 am

This has really piqued my interest too…especially considering the almost sacred significance to the marriage bed at the conclusion of the tale.

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6 designedwithpurpose October 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I was wondering the same thing. Is it “allowed” because they were goddesses?

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7 Sarah September 30, 2012 at 8:24 pm

I loved the quote you read at the end. This work is really something. I’m so glad to have had the chance to read it along with such an insightful group.

So, interestingly, we’ve been reading Jonah at our church and there are a stunning number of parallels. I checked the dates and Homer wrote this during the same era Jonah was written, which makes a lot of sense when you think about the way they both read. Of course Jonah was kind of a non-hero, running from where he was supposed to go, while Odysseus was doing everything he could to get where he was supposed to go. It’s the way the both read, the Divine storm over the sea, the crew on the boats fearful of retribution from the gods. Oh course Jonah’s story is one of God’s grace in saving him despite his folly, and sparing Ninevah. Just interesting to read while in the Odyessy.

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8 designedwithpurpose October 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Wow, I have fascinated that Jonah and the Odyessy were written in the same time period. My mind is racing, this could be a whole other topic we should all discuss one day! Thank you for sharing.

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9 melissa stover September 30, 2012 at 8:24 pm

i read antigone ages ago and loved it. I should read it again.

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10 Ruth September 30, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I have not finished reading the last half of the book. But I do agree that reading it a second time is more enjoyable. I read this aloud with my son last year and had some difficulty, sometimes I would get tripped up in the pronunciation of the names. I have enjoyed it far more this time. I like to check Spark Notes for a synopsis and insight to difficult reads.

Jackie-I wondered the same thing about the relationships Odysseus had outside of his marriage. It may be that it was accepted in that culture, especially in regards to goddesses. Even in the Bible, we read of the men having more than one wife and concubines. It may be that it was not out of ordinary, and did not jeopardize the relationship between Penelope and Odysseus. Penelope’s faithfulness to Odysseus is unwavering. This is a male dominated society and that may be why there is this difference.
Thank you for the videos. They have been helpful and encouraging. I especially enjoyed the notes shared today. Penelope is portrayed in a better light in the second half. Her strength and dignity are evident.

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11 Amber September 30, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I am unable to see what version of Antigone you are using when I read your post. Will you please repost that info? Thank you.

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12 Kathryn September 30, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Love the wedding bed’s symbolism, and I like how you mentioned the circles or rings of the journey, all leading back to the wedding bed, back to home.
I also love the reference about the light – all through the book there is the beautiful description of the dawn – “When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more…”, “…Dawn comes up and takes her golden throne…”. And it does seem dreamy, like the first light, first hours of the day. Everyone has been “sleeping” through the last 10/20 years – some in a decadent dream (the suitors for the past 3 years), and some in a nightmare (Penelope, Telemachus, Laertes, and Odysseus). So now is the dawn, a new day for everyone involved, an awakening.
I read somewhere that everything Homer writes about has significant meaning within the various themes of the book – for example, the food/feasts (every where there is food served it has different meanings attached to it), the sea, the vessels Odysseus uses in his attempts to reach Ithaca, etc. It certainly gives this book an amazing depth, and is one I will read again. I have a notebook that I jot things/thoughts/questions down as I read them, and I think I will go back and flesh out more of these things (by referencing this study guide – http://www.temple.edu/classics/odysseyho/index.html). This was my first read, and it definitely helped to read background/cliffs notes before attempting the book – they give you insight to things you may miss, and yet still keeps the drama of reading the book for the first time intact.

Rambled on it more on my blob – http://sweetsouthernsymphony.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-odyssey.html.

Thanks, Edie, for the inspiration to read such an epic. And I love your videos too. They give lots of info, and you can listen while referencing the book/notes/feeding the kids, etc :)

I have already started Antigone!

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13 Kristen Miller September 30, 2012 at 11:57 pm

I loved this as soon as I read it….

“If a man is cruel by nature, cruel in action,
The mortal world will call down curses on his head
While he is alive, and all will mock his memory after death.
But then if a man is kind by nature, kind in action,
his guests will carry his fame across the earth
and people all will praise him from the heart.”
-Penelope speaking to Odysseus before she knows it is him
Book 19, line 378

This speaks volumes of the Xenia we have been referring to. People always remember how you make them feel. I really want to be a person that people will praise from their heart.

Thank you, Edie, for doing this! I really enjoyed The Odyssey and am looking forward to Antigone.

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14 Tracey October 1, 2012 at 7:16 am

I so loved reading The Odyssey. Thank you so much Edie! For some reason I was touched most by Laertes and Odysseus’s reunion.
“At those words a black cloud of grief came shrouding over Laertes. Both hands clawing the ground for dirt and grime, he poured it over his grizzled head, sobbing, in spasms. Odysseus’ heart shuddered, a sudden twinge went shooting up through his nostrils, watching his dear father struggle…”
The rawness of emotion and grief experienced by Laertes actually brought tears to my eyes and I was so relieved that Odysseus revealed himself quickly! I have also been struck by all the Biblical parallels and in this case the practice of covering oneself with sackcloth and ashes, rending ones clothes when mourning and currently the practice of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday.
Thanks again Edie! Now on to Antigone.
XO

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15 Evie B October 1, 2012 at 9:50 am

I read an interview with Robert Fagles who says this part of the story (Father/Son relationship) was especially moving for him also. It was the first section he translated and he could really connect with it as he lost his own father when he was only 14. So much good stuff here. I look forward to reading it again at some point. There is so much to learn…

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16 laura@libertyfarmchronicles October 1, 2012 at 8:29 am

So many wonderful comments here and on the forum – what depth of experience and understanding.
I’m still journeying home with Odysseus as life on the farm has not afforded much reading time, but I have gleaned so much from you Edie, and all the others who’ve volunteered to string together words into community – words from the original source, and then our own, lending life to story.
Still turning the page and gladly waiting for the next book to arrive on my doorstep…

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17 designedwithpurpose October 1, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Edie, thank you for sharing with us about not expecting to “get it” the first time we read it. I have to say, I am one of the lost ones (in terms of not seeing the magic in it) but I want so badly to see its beauty.

For what it’s worth, commenting here on the post is a lot easier than the forum (at least for me). I find that forum a bit confusing, I would love to just keep commenting on your posts! Did anyone else think the same?

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18 Katherine @ Whitehall October 1, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Thank you for sharing those quotes with us.

I love the emphasis on Penelope. She is such a strong figure. I think that we overlook the trial that she went through as though it is just a fact of the story (Twenty years…Ithaca…Trojan War…wait, who was Telemachus again?). But when I stop to think about a 20 year absence from my husband, it is unfathomable. I joke with friends that I am a ‘coach’s widow’ because during the football season, my husband spends about 1 ½ waking hours at home each day (just enough time to eat, kiss the baby, take a shower, and go to bed). Each year, this season is a very difficult time of adjustment for us (especially after being around each other 24/7 during the summer). To know that your husband (and king) is going off to war, and then to wait for him for 20 years would take a strength that I don’t think I possess.

I also agree that Odysseus’ relationships with others throughout his sojourn are weird considering that it seems fidelity in his relationship with Penelope is so important. Although, to have those relationships contrasted with the importance of Penelope is telling. He may have been lured to others and held under their spells, but Penelope is his home. He longs not just for Ithaca, but for his home with Penelope; the marriage bed, literally being at the center, and heart, of his homecoming (his ultimate destination).

If Homer wanted to write a story only about Odysseus’ trials and tribulations on his way home from battle, I think this tale would have been much different. Because so much focus is centered on what is happening back in Ithaca, and on Penelope, and her trials as well, I think that the idea of homecoming is so much richer in this story than it first seems. I always described this epic as a story about Odysseus’ journey home from Troy. However, after this reading, I feel that it isn’t the journey for Odysseus, it is the destination that matters. The journey gives us insight into Odysseus (his innate character, growth, strengths, etc.), and we see (as Edie pointed out so wonderfully) Penelope complimenting Odysseus with her own set of strengths without the mask of masculinity concealing her cleverness, self-possession, and endurance.

Oh my, I am just rambling on here, but I also wanted to say something about the marriage bed. I love that Penelope kept that hidden. As a person who felt that I was away from home for a large portion of my life, I can say that there are identifying markers of home that we look for as recognition that we are indeed secure in the place we have longed for. My own absence from home is nothing like the trials of Odysseus (much less dramatic), however, upon returning, I would always notice smells, the sound of certain birds that you only hear at home, the sight of certain trees, etc. It would not be the flight attendant saying “Welcome to ‘xzy’!” that told me I was home; it would be my own senses taking in the markers that only I knew as my own identification of home.

I have to think that just as Penelope was home for Odysseus, so too, he was home for her. She was without her own grounding in his absence. By keeping their marriage bed secret, she was preserving her own need for home (that sanctuary that provides comfort and security).

Gosh I could talk about ‘homecoming’ for days. Thank you so much Edie for guiding us in our discussions‼!

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19 jennm October 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm

This has been my first time actually reading through the entire book, and I had no idea what I was missing! I originally thought a book with mythical gods and goddess entering into the daily lives of mortals, one-eyed monsters and the wouldn’t touch deep on a human level. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure I would like it. However, it brilliantly took on a very human feel to me. I loved it! Just some thoughts…

On loyalty to Odysseus: It was such a relief to find Eumaeus. Here is a man–finally one man in Ithaca–that has been loyal to Odysseus. And I love that he was a friend to Telemachus. It was comforting to me to find that in Telemachus’ lonely life on Ithaca, he had a least one friend among all the enemies. It broke my heart as Odysseus walked past his dog, unable to greet him–”but the dark shadow of death closed down on Argos‘ eyes the instant he saw Odysseus, twenty years away.” Argos has been loyally waiting for him, for twenty years–so sad.

In regards to xenia, I thought the following quote on page 321 was great: “Balance is best in all things. It’s bad either way, spurring the stranger home who wants to linger, holding the one who longs to leave.” I also liked when Odysseus says “my good-for-nothing belly–that, that curse that makes such pain for us poor men.” In general, it seems that those who demonstrated true xenia during this time understood this and feeding the poor (not just the guests from afar) was part of their hospitality. It is evidenced in how Penelope treated Odysseus when she thought he was just a beggar. I took note, too, of how the proper host and hostess always made sure their guests were well fed and nourished before they delved into much discussion or activity. I can’t remember where I was reading, but at some point the notion of how they seemed to think that a beggar might be a god disguised seemed to draw a connection to me with a Christian view of hospitality… Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” And also, in Matthew 25 when Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me…as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

Tracey–I was also greatly relieved when Odysseus revealed himself to his father. I felt irritated with him when he started on his rant. It seemed a bit cruel to put him through that!

A quote to tell my kids :) , “clearly doing good puts doing bad to shame.” pg. 451

One of my most favorite parts was how, upon their reunion, Odysseus and Penelope stayed up late into the night talking. As a military wife (who, thankfully, has always had email and not longer than several months at a time of separation), I can relate to the feeling of immediately wanting to tell each other everything you haven’t been able to during the separation. That was a moment where the book was very human and real to me. I can’t quite imagine what it must have been life after 20 years of no communication! Such a sweet moment, yet, a bit heart-wrenching with all Odysseus had to go through after arriving on Ithaca before being able to reunite with his wife.

Great book choice, Edie! Thank you!

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20 Lori B October 3, 2012 at 8:48 am

I’m a little behind and haven’t finished up yet (this homeschool year is kicking my fanny!) but I just saw this article about the Odyssey mentioned on Dr. Veith’s blog this morning and thought the group might like it. It regards staying home versus leaving home and returning home. Here’s the link http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/place-person-the-odyssey/

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21 Katherine @ Whitehall October 3, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Lori B, I thought that was a great article that you linked to. I particularly like his point that you have to leave in order to have a homecoming. That just gets my mind rolling in all sorts of directions.

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22 jennm October 3, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Thanks for sharing the article, Lori B. It was great!

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23 Trudy October 12, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I am currently reading Garry Wills’ “Lincoln at Gettysburg”, The words that remade America. It is amazing how reading Homer’s Odyssey has prepared me to read about our country’s history. I am picking up Antigone at the library this evening and getting started, again. As always, thank you for the inspiration.

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24 chrissy October 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Edie and all,
Thanks for you insights to help guide me through our first reading! I have been embracing the taking in of neighbors and friends…..I have mostly benefited from conversations that I would not have had. Can’t wait for next book.

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25 Claire October 22, 2012 at 11:55 am

New to your book club posts so I know I am coming in late on this one and hope to start with Antigone (which I haven’t read in over 20 years). I just watched your video above and was just mesmerized hearing the words to this classic again. I studied and read The Odyssey many years ago and this makes me want to read it again with even better understanding. And I love that you have chosen classic books, Edie. They seem to be lost on children and youth today. I am inspired to make sure my children don’t miss out on these wonderful stories.
Looking forward to Antigone. I can’t see which translation you chose – can you please post that?
Thank you!!
Claire

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