Reading Questions: Odyssey 23, 24 1. Why does Penelope find Eurykleia?s story so hard to believe? How does the following interview with Odysseus play out? How is it like their previous interaction in book 19? How does the poet bring out Odysseus? and Penelope?s status as true equals here? 2. How do both Penelope and Odysseus use the secret of their wedding bed to test one another out? Why is this test particularly apt for them? 3. How does Odysseus? account of his wanderings to Penelope differ from the versions he gave when he was in disguise, particularly the version he told her? How is the next ?mission? for Odysseus (prophesied by Teirisias) a particularly suitable task for him? What does the oar symbolize? 4. Is the story of the suitors? own katabasis in book 24 at all useful for the narrative, or is it little more than ?filler?? 5. Pay careful attention to the way that Laertes is introduced. How is he like Odysseus? Why do you think the poet puts him in such shabby conditions? What kind of transformation does he undergo in the final book of the Odyssey? Why is this important? 6. Why on earth does Odysseus revert to a false persona when meeting his father, considering that the suitors are already killed? Why does he fail to stay ?in character? this time? 7. How do Medon and Phemios try to prevent the families of the suitors from attacking Odysseus and his family? Is their explanation effective? Is it valid? 8. N.B. Athena?s interaction with Zeus, and the role of both gods in the conclusion. How is this parallel to the beginning of the epic? What is different? 9. Athena?s direct intervention constitutes the first (of many!) deus (or, here, dea, of course) ex machina in the history of literature. Do you find this a conclusion apt and effective or anticlimactic and inept? What significance does such an ending have for the poem as a whole? How does the dea ex machina fit in with everything else you know of Homer? Recall the shield of Achilles in the Iliad. Is it really true that societies cannot survive without impartial mediators? How important and how effective are mediating figures for Homer?
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