Why does Homer reveal Melanthius' treatment of Odysseus in The Odyssey?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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We are first introduced to the character of Melanthius in Book 17 of this epic classic. As Odysseus and Eumaeus head towards the city at the behest of Telemachus, they are accosted by Melantius, a goat herder, who physically and verbally attacks Odysseus. Odysseus has to struggle massively to stop himself from immediately killing Melanthius for the way that he treats him, his rightful lord and master. Undeterred by the threats of Eumaeus, Melanthius goes on in to join the suitors. He is shown to have forsaken his loyalty to his master and joined the suitors in their unscrupulous attempts to court Penelope and consume the resources of Ithaca. Thus he damages Odysseus both by verbally and physically assaulting him, but also by his lack of loyalty and the way that he abandons his master for the suitors. As such he can be said to be a foil for Eumaeus, who remains loyal in a way that Melanthius does not.

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