Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer
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What is the significance of the fact that the Odyssey, as a journey, primarily consists of Odysseus's time home in Ithaca? What specific moment do you think the suitors actually realize or recognize that it is Odysseus in their presence rather than a mere beggar? Why is it that they are slow to recognize that it is, in fact, him?

The significance of the fact that so much of the Odyssey takes place in Ithaca is to highlight the importance of Odysseus's homeland to him. The suitors don't realize that Odysseus is among them until he strings his bow, shoots Antinous through the throat, and reveals his identity to them. They are slow to recognize him because he has been gone for so long, is disguised as a beggar, and is aided by Athena.

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It is true that much of the Odyssey takes place on Ithaca, Odysseus's home. This helps underscore the importance of home as a theme of the poem. Although he sometimes lingers too long in one place, Odysseus is driven by the desire to be back in his rightful home, beside...

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It is true that much of the Odyssey takes place on Ithaca, Odysseus's home. This helps underscore the importance of home as a theme of the poem. Although he sometimes lingers too long in one place, Odysseus is driven by the desire to be back in his rightful home, beside his wife. He fought the brutal, long, and bloody Trojan War for the opportunity to live in peace in his homeland. His loyalty to place and his love for his wife (despite his dalliances) would have been honored and appreciated by his Greek audience.

It takes a long time—until after it is too late for them—for the other suitors to recognize Odysseus's true identity. Part of this is because he has been gone so long that they don't expect him to show up, and part is because his disguise as a beggar puts him into very a different role than he usually plays. Further, Athena is with him, helping him all the way.

Penelope decides that she will marry the one who can string Odysseus' famed bow and shoot his arrows. The other suitors fail at this task. But even when the loyal Eumaeus and Philoitius, who know Odysseus' identify, bar the doors, the other suitors do not suspect anything. It is only after Odysseus strings his bow and shoots Antinous in the throat that they begin to worry—and they only know his identity for certain after Odysseus reveals it to them after killing Antinous.

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