Near the end of Odyssey 21, Odysseus, when he takes the bow in his hands, is compared to a musician or harper. What is significant about this simile and its use at the climactic moment of the Odyssey?
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Near the end of Odyssey 21, Odysseus is compared to a musician stringing a lyre when he strings his bow. The theme of music has been lurking about throughout the entire epic. Recall Odyssey 1 in which Penelope tried to get the musician to stop playing, only to be rebuked by Telemachus. See also Odyssey 8, in which the Phaeacian musician's song causes Odysseus to weep and eventually reveal his identity.
Of course, the author of the Odyssey would have sung his poem while playing the lyre. Thus, "Homer" creates a link between himself and the hero by comparing Odysseus to someone stringing a lyre.
Thus, as we approach the end of the Odyssey, the title character moves one step closer to regaining his old identity as the king of Ithaca. He is moving from the role of beggar to musician and he has been reunited with an "instrument" which he has not "played" in a long time.
Then grasping the bow in his right hand, he plucked the string that sang sweetly to his touch with the sound of a swallow’s note. (A.S. Kline translation)
The tune that Odysseus plays in Book 22 will sound much like the song of Homer's Iliad as the hero sends the souls of many to the underworld.
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