Notes on The Odyssey Themes

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The Odyssey Topic Tracking: Guests and Hosts

Guests and Hosts 1: Telemachus calls the assembly because his house is plagued with guests who will not leave. They have outstayed their welcome by many years. They claim they have the right to stay because Penelope will not remarry. Telemachus is in a difficult position because he is not seen as an adult.

Guests and Hosts 2: Nestor does not think it proper for hi s guest Telemachus to sleep in his boat, so in accordance with custom he invites him into his house and offers him food and a bath. He makes the appropriate sacrifice in the morning, even though it is elaborate. He also lends Telemachus a team of horses and his son as a companion.

Guests and Hosts 3: Menelaus is rejoiced to have the son of one of his comrades in his house. He extends to Telemachus anything he would give to Odysseus and promises him fine gifts upon his departure. They exchange stories and speak as if they were old friends as they feast into the night.

Guests and Hosts 4: Nausicaa finds the beggar in the thicket and tells her hand-maidens they should help him because of a divine imperative to help those in distress. She gives him food and clothing and tells him that he will be more adequately sheltered in her father's house.

Guests and Hosts 5: Alcinous and Arete welcome the stranger into their house when he clings to her knees and offer him food and shelter. When they find out that he is a traveler lost on his way, they offer him passage home. They are interested in hearing his story and sharing theirs. Odysseus is given a place of honor at their table and more food when he asks for it.

Guests and Hosts 6: The assembly of Phaiakians vote to give Odysseus passage home at the advice of their king. The king also offers Odysseus his daughter in marriage. There are athletic contests and when Odysseus is offended he challenges everyone except for the king's family, but Alcinous tells him not to worry. The first time Odysseus cries because of the songs of the minstrel, Alcinous changes the activity. The second time he asks him if anyone he knew died at Troy. The man who offended Odysseus gives him a broadsword and Alcinous tells all the wealthy men to give Odysseus a bar of gold and clothing.

Guests and Hosts 7: When they enter the cave of Polyphemus, Odysseus assumes that they will be treated as guests by its inhabitant. When Polyphemus returns and realizes that they are expecting some sort of guest relationship he tells them that he fears neither the gods nor Zeus. He refuses to give them hospitality and begins to eat them. Because of this, Odysseus ends up blinding the cyclops and stealing his flocks of sheep.

Guests and Hosts 8: Aeolus, the king of the winds, gives Odysseus a safe wind home in exchange for his story. When Odysseus' men, in their greed for treasure, open the gift of safe winds prematurely and they are blown back to Aeolus' island, he is unwilling to help them anymore. Circe turns the men into animals because she feels threatened by them. When Odysseus is protected by her magic she is impressed and at his bidding she frees his men and provides all of them with food and shelter for a year.

Guests and Hosts 9: For Odysseus' lamentable tale, Alcinous grants him more gifts, making Odysseus far wealthier than he was when he arrived. He blesses the ship on which Odysseus is to travel. Odysseus sleeps during the journey and is left on the island before he wakes up. For their kindness as hosts, the Phaiakians are punished. The ship of men that carried Odysseus is turned to stone. Alcinous announces that his people will no longer offer safe passage to everyone.

Guests and Hosts 10: The swineherd has very little, but what he has he feels obligated to share evenly with the beggar. The beggar tries to tell him news of Odysseus and he hears the news but refuses to grant any gift of exchange for it because he doesn't believe it to be true.

Guests and Hosts 11: When Telemachus announces that he must depart, Menelaus demands that he have breakfast first. Helen and Menelaus present him with gifts. When he nears Pylos, Telemachus asks Nestor's son for forgiveness because he is going to avoid their hospitality so that he may get home faster. When Theoklymenos, the murderous seer asks him for a ride to Ithaca with him, Telemachus grants it rather than deny a seer. He is regretful that he must house Theoklymenos in the house of another when he gets to Ithaca. The swineherd continues to share everything with Odysseus and he tells him his own tale of his fall from riches.

Guests and Hosts 12: Odysseus, admitted as a beggar into his own house, becomes a lesser form of guest who is entitled to food but no gifts. The suitors point this out to him and they give freely of the food that is not even theirs to give. When Odysseus points this out, Antinous physically attacks him. The suitors yell at him for attacking a guest.

Guests and Hosts 13: When Odysseus beats the other beggar he is given the food of a more honored guest. Penelope invites him to her room to hear his story and in exchange for that she has him bathed and given new clothing.

Guests and Hosts 14: The suitors do not want the beggar to have a try at the bow, but Telemachus uses his clout as the real master of the house to demand that the beggar be allowed to try.

Guests and Hosts 15: Part of the reason the men of the assembly are so upset with Odysseus is that he killed men in his home. This could be interpreted as a violation of the guest relationship. When the herald announces that it was he work of a god, not Odysseus, many of the people understand this as a divine mandate that this certain guest relationship was null and void.

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