Book 16 Summary and Analysis
Amphinomus: the least violent of the suitors
Telemachus enters the dwelling of Eumaeus as the swineherd and Odysseus take their morning meal. Eumaeus, overjoyed to see Telemachus safely returned to Ithaca, embraces his master and weeps tears of joy. Telemachus questions Eumaeus about his guest, and the swineherd explains Odysseus’ fictional situation. Telemachus agrees to send the guest where he desires to go, but admits that present circumstances prohibit him from entertaining his guest at his own hall.
Telemachus sends Eumaeus off to secretly tell Penelope of her son’s return and relieve her of her fears. However, after Eumaeus has departed for the city, Athene appears to Odysseus and beckons him outside. Changing him back to his original, vibrant self, she commands him to reveal himself to his son. Odysseus enters the house, and Telemachus, in awe of his sudden change, believes him to be a god. Odysseus spends some time convincing Telemachus that he is his father, but once he has persuaded his son of his identity, the two break down and tearfully rejoice for quite some time. When they have finished their long lament, they begin planning the death of the suitors. Telemachus details the great numbers of the suitors to Odysseus, who believes that Zeus and Athene will support them against the incalculable odds.
Meanwhile, Telemachus’ companions return to the city and send a herald to inform Penelope of her son’s return. Eumaeus meets the herald on his way to Penelope’s chamber, and while the swineherd delivers Telemachus’ message to Penelope privately, the herald’s proclamation reaches the ears of the suitors.
The suitors despair over the failure of their plan, and when they have rejoined those of their number who had gone to perform the ambush, the large group meets at the place of assembly. There Antinoös, fearing the repercussions of their plot when it becomes known to the Ithacans, suggests they find and murder Telemachus immediately. Amphinomus, one of the chief suitors, is able to dissuade the suitors from taking this course of action. He suggests that if the gods themselves have delivered Telemachus from their hands, they had best give up the plot. The suitors agree with Amphinomus.
They return to Odysseus’ palace to resume their feasting but are interrupted by Penelope, who, having learned of her son’s present safety, descends to the great hall to rebuke the plotting suitors. She centers on Antinoös, whose father had been rescued through the influence of Odysseus; now Antinoös repays Odysseus by plotting the death of the man’s son. Eurymachus falsely reassures Penelope that he will personally see to the safety of Telemachus among the suitors. Penelope returns to her chamber, where she weeps until drifting off to sleep.
Eumaeus returns to his shelter and informs Telemachus and Odysseus, who has since resumed his beggar disguise, that he has accomplished his assigned task. When Telemachus questions him regarding the return of the suitors from their ambush, Eumaeus tells him that he did indeed see a ship returning to the harbor that was heavily laden with weapons. Eumaeus’ guests then eat their evening meal and retire for the evening.
Discussion and Analysis
The revelation of identity is a motif that continually surfaces throughout the Odyssey. When Odysseus decides to reveal himself, he usually does so in a dramatic manner that draws a strong reaction from those he is addressing. For example, throughout the entirety of Books VII-VIII, Odysseus is entertained by the Phaeaceans, who remain ignorant of his identity. By the time he reveals himself, Demodocus has already sung two songs honoring the famous hero who devised the Trojan Horse. We can only imagine the Phaeaceans’ reactions when, after a suitably long introduction to cause suspense, Odysseus begins his long tale with: “I am Odysseus son of Laertes, known before all...
(The entire section is 981 words.)