Theme of Homecoming and Reunion in Homer's Odyssey
The theme of The Odyssey is one of homecoming and reunion with
loved ones. Though the proem of the epic states that Odysseus' own purpose
is simply the fight to save his own life and return his shipmates home
safely, the gods of Olympus are the unknown captains of this journey. It
is an epic story of the making of men, mainly Odysseus and Telemakhos.
Homer methodically details the struggles set forth by the gods. The
contests of Odysseus' wisdom, honor, piety and prudence. These tests of
will prove Odysseus 'master mariner and soldier', truly virtuous and
capable. He becomes not only the last hope of those still true and loyal,
but he is the only one who can discern the proper course of action in the
re-ordering of his house and his household.
In the opening of the epic, the gods, at home upon great Olympus,
sit in conversation reflecting upon the pride of men. One example being
Agisthos, who is run amuck with greed and pride. Zeus' remark that "Greed
and folly will double suffering in the lot of man..." is indeed the
standard by which men are judged to be the Shepherd or the wolf. It is
greed and folly, which are the marks of impious men, men who engage in
improper feasting. Worse still are those who give into temptation after
long suffering, for it denies them the knowledge of the good; namely virtue.
Of improper feasting there are numerous examples, from the
gluttonous behavior of the suitors and the cannibalism of the Kyklops, to
Odysseus' own shipmates who kill and feast on the cattle of Lord Helios,
the Sun. As illustrated by the text, improper feasting is a sin against
the order of Zeus and thus the order of men. Telemakhos recognizes the
wrong done against him and his household. The youth of Telemakhos prevents
him from doing more than sitting by in mute fury, but it is the visitation
of Athena that unlocks his silent disgust. He reveals to the goddess that
the feast of the suitors is plunder, and their acts rapine. He tells
Menthos (Athena in disguise) that the suitors lives are easy and scot-free.
At the assembly, Telemakhos' remarks are quick and to the point. "My home
and all I have are being ruined...like a pack they came...these men [that]
spend their days around our house killing our beeves and sheep and fatted
goats, carousing, soaking up our good dark wine, not caring what they do.
They squandered everything." In response to this, Antinoos gives a brash
reply, claiming that it is Telemakhos that judges them wrongly. He mislays
the blame upon Penelope, who has contrived all these years to deceive the
suitors and avoid a...