In book 7 of Homer's "The Odyssey," what is unusual about the relationship of Alcinous and Arete?

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Jessica Akcinar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In book 7 of The Odyssey, Odysseus is taken in by King Alcinous and Queen Arete. The husband and wife are both descendants of the god Poseidon. What is strange about their relationship is that they are very closely related. In fact, Alcinous is Arete's uncle. He married her after his brother, Rhexenor, was killed by Apollo.

Alcinous honors and admires Arete more than any other women on earth and allows her to control their home under his supervision. Alcinous views his wife as a goddess.

julie_feng | Student

It is not actually unusual that Alcinous and Arete are closely related by blood. What is actually strange is the feeling of joy and comfort in Book 7, as opposed to the ill-fated feeling of the rest of the Odyssey. Alcinous and Arete, the rulers of the Phaeacians, are happily married. They respect and honor one another. In them, and in their daughter Nausicaa, Odysseus sees the happiness that is just out of reach for him. It is at this point that he faces his most difficult trial. The relationships he witnesses here tests his resolve to get home to Ithaca. In every other ordeal, his determination to get home to his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus overpowers everything else. He gathers strength from this desire. However, in Alcinous and Arete's land, he is tempted to stay. They give him all the comforts that he could possibly need. He is absolutely charmed by their kingdom. To top it all off, their beautiful young daughter Nausicaa falls in love with Odysseus. Thus, this section of the narrative presents Odysseus's greatest challenge. It is unusual in that it is not monsters or gods that he faces--but the choice of another life.