Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Homer’s Odyssey: Book 24

Not that we need to hear about this filler, but Hermes leads the ghosts of the suitors to the Underworld, where they and we see again Achilles and Agamemnon and that batch, in a clumsy attempt by the redacting poet to tie this work to the Iliad. Anticlimactic recap of the suitor’s oppression of Penelope and her weaving scheme and Odysseus’ revenge. Agamemnon praising Odysseus’ choice of Penelope perhaps offers a positive resolution to the “woman question.”

Enough of the House of the Dead. Odysseus visits dad. There’s the usual “should I shouldn’t I” reveal myself or test him, but give us a break by now. It makes us weary of these “Further Adventures of.” Laertes laments current conditions, not knowing of recent events. Odysseus comes up with another extraneous, totally unnecessary fiction about himself, but eventually that old gimmick the scar gives him away. There’s also mathematical proof of who he is, once he enumerates orchard trees. Shouldn’t we alert Penelope? No need; forget about her.

But news spreads, so the suitors’ kinsmen gather and pose a threat to Odysseus. Deus ex machina: Athena asks Zeus if he wants the fighting to go on endlessly or what? Odysseus has had his revenge. Let’s make pacts and have the suitors’ relatives get amnesia. Odysseus and his happy few are fed and ready to fight, including old Laertes. One guy does get killed, but Athena intervenes and commands peace. So, “Athena handed down her pacts of peace / between both sides for all the years to come — / the daughter of Zeus whose shield is storm and thunder, / yes, but the goddess still kept Mentor’s build and voice” (24.599-602).

What?! What a stupid last line. Chuck this book.


Odyssey Index