Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer
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What made Odysseus want to return home to his wife after he had been gone for twenty whole years?

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Odysseus always planned to return home after the war. He was delayed for so long by misfortunes that befell him because he offended the gods. He dreams of returning to his wife, son, and home. Though he had a pleasurable time with Calypso--for seven years--he still wanted to go back...

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Odysseus always planned to return home after the war. He was delayed for so long by misfortunes that befell him because he offended the gods. He dreams of returning to his wife, son, and home. Though he had a pleasurable time with Calypso--for seven years--he still wanted to go back to Ithaca. He loved the wife he left behind and was happy with the life he had there.

Homer writes that Odysseus looks out over the waves mournfully every day. Eventually, Calypso realizes how unhappy he is and is told to set him free. Though they've had a relationship together and been together for years, it's clear that Odysseus won't be happy on her island. He sets out but still has more obstacles to overcome before he can return to Ithaca, slay the suitors, and begin to live the rest of his life with his wife and family.

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There was no one specific event that made Odysseus want to return home to his wife, Penelope, after twenty years.  Honestly he didn't really want to leave in the first place, but he got called away to fight Troy on behalf of Menelaus whose wife, Helen, had been abducted Paris, the prince of Troy.  Odysseus was away from home for the first ten years because that is how long the Trojan War lasted.  Eventually, he conceived of the Trojan Horse idea, and this is what turned the tide of the war; it's how the Achaeans actually got inside the walls of Troy and eventually defeated the Trojans.

Odysseus tried to go right home to Ithaca, but a number of unfortunate events (some his fault, others not) occurred to delay him.  After yet another ten years, Odysseus remains just as committed to reaching home as he ever was.  His tenacity and perseverance, as well as his (relative) loyalty to his wife and religious piety, were seen as much to be admired by the ancient Greeks.

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