1 Answer | Add Yours
Book VI of The Odyssey is one of the least anthologized episodes in the epic because not much happens. Book VI is a "bridge" between Odysseus being lost and found. It is a transition between our hero's odyssey and his return home to Ithaca. In between, of course, is his stay at King Alcinous' island-country Phaecia. It is for the great King that Odysseus frames his flashback adventures. It is fitting that the King's daughter (with help from a goddess) finds him.
Since the action is a return to the present, Book VI stars off in medias res, ("in the middle of things"): we don't know where Odysseus's been or who these people are. Like him, we are lost. Since the book is episodic, background information is necessary. Odysseus' name is not even mentioned: he is simply identified as "stranger." Odysseus must keep his identity a secret. He has learned the hard way (from Cyclops) that bragging one's name can cause death and destruction. As such, he is wandering guest who will be clothed and fed before he offers his name.
The Book contains formal monologues. Goddesses and mortals speak in long, formal speeches, not realistic or familiar conversation. The goddess Minerva addresses Nausicaa thusly:
"Nausicaa, what can your mother have been about, to have such a lazy daughter? Here are your clothes all lying in disorder, yet you are going to be married almost immediately, and should not only be well dressed yourself, but should find good clothes for those who attend you. This is the way to get yourself a good name, and to make your father and mother proud of you. Suppose, then, that we make tomorrow a washing day, and start at daybreak...
And Odysseus responds with an elaborate monologue (excerpted here):
"O queen," he said, "I implore your aid- but tell me, are you a goddess or are you a mortal woman? If you are a goddess and dwell in heaven, I can only conjecture that you are Jove's daughter Diana, for your face and figure resemble none but hers...
Together, the in medias res makes the reader, like Odysseus, feel lost and disoriented, but the formal monologues seek to establish order between gods and mortals and guests and hosts, thus making Odysseus begin to feel welcomed.
We’ve answered 319,199 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question