Why doesn't Odysseus tell Penelope that he's home?

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Before Odysseus can be alone, at long last, with his good lady wife, he has to reestablish his authority as king. When reading The Odyssey, it's always important to bear in mind that Odysseus is king of Ithaca, a role he takes very seriously indeed. The suitors who are paying court to Penelope and eating Odysseus out of house and home are not just unwanted house guests; they're impudently challenging Odysseus's kingly authority.

So, once safely back on Ithacan soil, Odysseus has to get his priorities straight. And though it may be tempting for him to dash off to the palace and into the loving arms of the wife he hasn't seen in twenty years, he knows that he must, first of all, do his duty as king. That means dealing with the suitors—not just slaughtering them, but purifying the royal palace of the spiritual pollution that they have generated all these years. It's absolutely imperative, then, for Odysseus to stay incognito before he's had a chance to settle accounts with the men who want to take his place as king of Ithaca.

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Odysseus maintains his beggar disguise in front of Penelope for several reasons. First of all, in front of the suitors, if Penelope knew who Odysseus was, she would likely give it away without even meaning to. It would be written all over her face.

Secondly, Odysseus had business to take care of before he could encounter pleasure. These suitors had to be dealt with. They completely outnumbered Odysseus and his son. If they wanted to take the two of them out, in human power, they could. However, if Odysseus took care of it before he revealed his identity to Penelope, that would no longer be a necessary item on his agenda to care of.

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