The Odyssey by Homer

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Book 2 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mentor: aged protector of Odysseus’ property

Halitherses: prophetic Ithacan who predicts Odysseus’ homecoming

Summary
Telemachus arises in the morning and calls the people of Ithaca together for an assembly. This is the first time since Odysseus’ departure for Troy that such a gathering has taken place. With a divine air of grace bestowed on him by Athene, Telemachus addresses the people, who are impressed by his speech. He demands that they take some action against the suitors and their outrages against his household and possessions.

Antinoös retorts that the cause of Telemachus’ troubles lies not in the suitors but in Penelope herself, who keeps baiting the suitors with ungenuine promises of satisfaction. Furthermore, Penelope has kept the suitors off for three years by promising to marry one of them when she has completed the weaving of a burial shroud for her father-in-law, Laertes. The suitors have discovered that Penelope, hoping to stall the suitors indefinitely, undoes the work of the shroud every evening in order to make the work’s completion impossible. Now they have forced her to finish the shroud and demand that she finally make the choice she promised she would make. Until she decides, Telemachus must suffer the suitors’ presence in his household.

There are two outspoken advocates of Telemachus’ cause at the assembly. The first is Halitherses, a prophet who predicted long ago that Odysseus would return home alone and disguised twenty years after his departure. During the council, two eagles fight each other wildly over the assembly; Halitherses augurs that this is a sign of doom for the suitors, who had best quit their actions now before it is too late. Eurymachus speaks up, however, and threatens the welfare of Halitherses and his family should the prophet continue to stir up trouble with his speech.

Telemachus’ second advocate is Mentor, an aged friend of Odysseus who was charged with caring for Odysseus’ personal matters while he was away. After Telemachus requests a ship and crew to search for news of his father, Mentor supports him by blaming the Ithacans for their indifference to matters in Odysseus’ household. However, he too is silenced by the angry suitors.

Matters end inconclusively, and the assembly is over abruptly. However, Athene, disguised as Mentor, stirs Telemachus to continue his plans for his journey. Telemachus returns home and, after dealing with the taunts of the suitors, descends to his storeroom and charges Eurycleia to prepare provisions for his journey. Despite her protests concerning the journey, Eurycleia obeys her master and even swears an oath of secrecy regarding the matter.

Meanwhile, disguised as Telemachus, Athene goes abroad and gathers a ship, crew, and gear for sailing. This done, she casts a spell that forces the suitors to sleep. It is a small matter, then, for Telemachus to bring the provisions down to the ship and sail off into the dead of night, with no one, not even Penelope, aware of his departure. Athene journeys with Telemachus, still disguised as Mentor.

Discussion and Analysis
The epic council or assembly is another convention established through Homer’s poetry. The Iliad had several important war meetings, and these are complemented...

(The entire section is 822 words.)