The Odyssey Books 21-22 Summary

     Book twenty-one begins with Penelope presenting the challenge to the suitors. She brings out Odysseus's heavy bow and arrow and tells the suitors they must try to shoot the bow through twelve aligned axe heads. Whoever succeeds will win her hand in marriage. Telemachus steps up intending to inspire the men and prove how it's done, but he is unable to handle the heavy bow. He asks that a man stronger than he is try it next. Several men try and fail to string the bow. Odysseus then pulls aside Eumaeus, the kind swineherd, and Philoetius, another man who has proven loyal and reveals his identity by showing them his scar. They are delighted to see he has safely returned and agree to help him carry out his plan. He asks that they get the women to leave the great hall and then lock the doors. Odysseus then asks the suitors if he can try to string the bow. After much argument and jeering, the men watch as Odysseus takes the bow in his hands. While the men continued to laugh, Odysseus swiftly strung the bow and sent it flying through the twelve notches. He then turned to Telemachus who stepped up by this father's side with his hand on his spear as the two men prepared to battle.

     In book twenty-two Odysseus takes his first arrow and aims it at Antinous, the most obnoxious of the suitors. Antinous was about to take a drink of wine from his cup when the arrow pierced his neck, which caused the suitors to panic. The men appeared confused by Odysseus's motivation, so he reveals to them his true identity and tells them that he plans to send each of them to the same fate for greedily living off of his provisions and lusting after his wife for so long. The men explain that they were led by Antinous who lies dead on the ground. There is no reason for Odysseus to kill anyone else. Eurymachus does not believe Odysseus will pardon them and advocates flipping tables over to use as shields. As Eurymachus says these words, Odysseus sends an arrow through his chest. Amphinomus tries to take his sword and stab Odysseus, but Telemachus quickly stabs him in the back. Telemachus then goes into the storeroom for armor for Eumaeus and Philoetius but accidentally leaves the door ajar. A suitor, Melanthius, sneaks in and brings some supplies to his friends, but on his second trip Eumaeus and Philoetius catch him and tie him up. Athena joins the fray disguised as Mentor to watch Odyssseus fight and eventually joins in to help him win. Everyone is killed except Phemius, the minstrel who sang for the suitors against his will, and Medon, the page. Next, Odysseus asked Eurycleia to bring forth any maids who had not loyally served his wife and son in his absence. Odysseus had them clean the great hall and then took them out and hanged all of them. Finally, they pulled out the captured Melanthius and cut off his nose, ears, hands, and feet and left him to die.

     Odysseus fully shows his vengeful, wrathful side in this slaughter of the suitors and the housemaids. He kills without remorse or fear of retribution because he knows Athena is on his side and will protect him from whatever retaliation might follow.

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