The Odyssey Books 16-17 Summary

     In book sixteen Telemachus finds Eumaeus who greets him with a big hug in a very fatherly member as Odysseus, still disguised, awkwardly looks on. Eumaeus introduces Telemachus to this stranger who talks to his son for the first time in twenty years. Odysseus learns that his father, Laertes, is still alive though greatly saddened by the death of his wife and his son still missing. When Eumaeus leaves, Athena returns and tells Odysseus to reveal his true identity to his son. Before he does so, she changes his appearance to that of a strong young king once more. When Odysseus approaches, Telemachus is shocked by the change in his appearance and assumes he must be a god. Once Odysseus finally convinces him that he's his father, they hug and sob. Odysseus tells Telemachus a bit about his journey before they make plans for his return home. First, Telemachus will return to his mother who was sent word that he had arrived but has not seen him. The suitors also learned of Telemachus's return, and some still wanted to murder him. Penelope learned of their discussion and went to the hall where they ate to express her disgust. Athena changed Odysseus's appearance back to that of an old beggar to help him proceed with his plan.

     In book seventeen Odysseus tells his son to return home to Penelope. He asks that Eumaeus escort him to the palace to beg food from the suitors. Telemachus greets his mother and tells her the "rumors" that he heard about his father, which mostly consist of facts that Odysseus told his son about his journey. When Odysseus returns to the palace he sees his very old dog full of fleas. The dog clearly recognizes his disguised master but hasn't the strength to stand, and then dies as Odysseus tries to hide his tears. After the meal, Odysseus, secretly urged by Athena, goes around to each suitor to see which ones are kind hearted and which are selfish. He comes upon Antinous who treats Eumaeus in an ugly manner then throws a stool at Odysseus. Penelope hears about what happened and asks to speak to the stranger. She thinks he might have information about her husband's whereabouts.

     These books and the next one contain dramatic irony when the audience knows things that the characters don't know. For example, the scene where Odysseus watches another man hug his son whom he has longed to hold for twenty years is one example. The next scene where Penelope actually speaks to her own husband thinking he is a stranger will be an even better example.

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