Who do you believe the poet or narrator is addressing in the poem "Ithaka"? How do you know?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the famous poem "Ithaka" by the Greek poet Constantine Peter Cavafy (sometimes written from the Greek as Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis), the poet or narrator is apparently addressing Odysseus, the hero of The Odyssey by Homer. This is evident by the mention of the Laistrygonians, Cyclops, and Poseidon. These are all opponents of Odysseus as he makes his way home after the Trojan War. Odysseus's home is Ithaka, which is usually spelled "Ithaca" in English. The Odyssey is an account of the many dangers that Odysseus encountered on the long journey home.

However, Odysseus had the desire to return to Ithaka as quickly as possible, but the narrator of the poem urges his readers to take their time and enjoy themselves along the way.

But don't hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

So you're old by the time you reach the island,

Wealthy with all you've gained on the way,

Not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

From these lines, we perceive that perhaps the narrator is not really speaking to Odysseus. Instead, he is speaking to all his readers who have embarked upon their voyages through life. He is using Ithaka as a metaphor for the journey's end, and he emphasizes to readers that the journey, and not the destination, is the most important thing, and that they should be sure to enjoy all the pleasures, joys, and new experiences they encounter along the way.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Illustration of a paper plane soaring out of a book

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial