Write a thesis about books 22 and 23 that use examples from books 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, or 16 to show that Odysseus' actions result from previously learned lessons.

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Odyssey, Odysseus has spent many years in his quest to return home from his exploits in Troy. Many of the obstacles that have prevented him have been sent by the gods but there are many instances where his own pride and stubbornness prevent him from reaching home.

In book V, Odysseus reveals his indecision and his mistrust and "While he was thus in two minds," he does what he thinks is best without listening to Calypso or heeding Athena's advice and is only spared because of Athena's intervention. In book XXII, he shows no such indecision as he actually asks for the help of Athena and he listens to others, especially Telemachus, as they try to protect him and fight with him, pleading for the lives of Phemius and Medon. Even though Odysseus must destroy the suitors and those that have caused offence and injury to his family, he has learnt to judge better and make more considered decisions:

Odysseus smiled at him (Medon) and answered, “Fear not; Telemachus has saved your life, that you may know in future, and tell other people, how greatly better good deeds prosper than evil ones.

Odysseus shows his preparedness to defeat and destroy the suitors in book XXII by having disguised himself in book XXI. In book XXII, he is then able to take the suitors by surprise:

They thought that he had killed Antinous by mistake, and did not perceive that death was hanging over the head of everyone of them.

This is in contrast to his efforts in book IX when he has escaped from the Cyclops but makes the mistake of identifying himself before he is safe. This theory has been tested and he knows that he barely escaped with his life and yet he still taunts the Cyclops:

I was for jeering at the Cyclops again, but the men begged and prayed of me to hold my tongue......

But I would not listen to them, and shouted out to him in my rage, ‘Cyclops, if anyone asks you who it was that put your eye out and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Odysseus..."

Odysseus's indecision has caused many losses in his crew and his failure to humble himself has caused interminable misery. He blames his crew for his plight and in book X says: 

‘My men have undone me; they, and cruel sleep, have ruined me. My friends, mend me this mischief, for you can if you will.’

In book XXII, he is certain of his intention and nothing will stop him from retaking his place as master of his household. He does not look to blame others nor will he allow distractions to hold him as they did before when he remained in the most unlikely places, even for years on end. He has (by book XXII and XXIII) learnt whom he can trust, a mistake he made with Circe (book X) as he trusts her even though she turns his men into pigs. Again his pride also causes him to make poor decisions as he is flattered by the attention of this "enchantress." Even when Eurylochus risks his own life by speaking plainly to Odysseus, Odysseus does not listen. Odysseus would have taken Eurylochus's life if not prevented by his men and yet, when Penelope tests him (bk XXIII), although angry, he does the right thing and "Then Odysseus in his turn melted, and wept as he clasped his dear and faithful wife to his bosom."

Odysseus has had his fair share of temptation and has thought himself more powerful than the gods in some of his decision-making. Although his adversaries meet a terrible end, he now believes he is killing from necessity and to protect his right and family and not because he is simply a warrior.