Odysseus spends so much time sailing home that the sea really takes up a good chunk of his life. This is fitting, since the sea and its perils work much the same way the Odyssey argues that life does, it is full of suffering, but it can’t be avoided. The sea can send blessings like sea breezes to blow him home or obstacles like storms, Skylla and Charybdis, and treacherous islands. Because the sea is ruled by Poseidon, it is also a manifestation of the superiority of the gods and nature over man.
The shroud is a symbol of female deception. Because she is a woman, Penelope doesn’t have much power to resist the suitors (as seen repeatedly by her son’s commands to go back upstairs to the bedroom, since everything else is a man’s affair). So, since she cannot fight them off or throw them out of her house, all she can do is delay the day she must pick a suitor. So she stretches that out as far as she can by prolonging the time it takes her to complete an honorable feminine task – weaving a death shroud for the despairing father of Odysseus. Though she spends all day weaving, she unravels her work each night. The fact that Penelope does not actually produce the shroud symbolizes her immobility and her helplessness to make any real progress against her enemy suitors.
The bow is a symbol of kingship and strength. Whoever strings it is worthy of King Odysseus and can rightfully take the throne. Physical strength was an important quality to the ancient Greeks, not only in warfare, but because psychologically it was tied to political strength and the iron will needed to govern a people who were given to argument and debate.
Not surprisingly, none of the suitors even comes close to succeeding, showing their weakness and folly in vying for Penelope’s hand. Telemachos almost strings the bow and might have done it had Odysseus not interrupted him, this shows that Telemachos has matured into manhood and is almost ready to take the place of his father. Of course, that he stops upon request reminds us that he maintains deference to Odysseus’s will.
Odysseus’s pet dog is a symbol of unconditional loyalty. Though Argos was a puppy when he last saw Odysseus, many years later he still loves him and shows...