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Of Gods And Mortals: Deception And Disguise

1029 words - 4 pages

Homer’s Odyssey challenges the common view on deception as employed only malignantly. Both a mortal, Odysseus, and one of the most reputable goddesses, Athena, have the common noble goal of bringing Odysseus back home to his family after nearly two decades of absence. To achieve that goal, they mainly use deception and disguise in various forms that their physical and mental powers allow. Whereas deception can hardly be viewed as a tool towards obtaining truth, Homer wittily illustrates that it is precisely trickery that aid Odysseus and Athena to uncover the truth of matters or people’s character. In the Odyssey, there are two key types of deception and disguise that Athena and Odysseus employ: physical disguise (which is divided between godlike disguise and mortal disguise powers) and verbal/mental deception.
From the beginning until the end of the Odyssey, Athena and Odysseus use physical disguise to ensure that justice and truth prevail. Athena uses her infinite disguising powers to change status, sex, and age and appear as the Mentor, a little girl, a “young man’s figure” and more (111. 281). While all disguising instances are all key steps towards helping Odysseus go back home, the Mentor disguise seems to be the most important. In Book 2, Athena transforms into the Mentor’s form to persuade Telemakhos, Odysseu’s son, to believe in his strength and pursue his journey (II. 425-429). The Mentor is a masculine authority of wisdom and advice to which Telemakhos will listen to, which we later see results in him pursuing the journey. Thus, even physical disguise has at its heart mental critical thinking and deception, as Athena knows that the Mentor is a trustworthy person that Telemkahos will be receptive to. At the every end of the Odyssey, Athena resumes to the Mentor disguise again to persuade Odysseus to refrain from entering a big conflict: “though still she kept the form and voice of Mentor” (XXIV. 614). Therefore, she uses the Mentor appearance in both crucial instances, initiation and resolution, to accomplish her noble goals of bringing back Odysseus home and ensuring a good aftermath.
Further, Athena does not only use these disguising and deception skills to appear as someone else; she also uses these skills to disguise Odysseus as a beggar in order to help figure out who he can trust and avoid being killed by the suitors (XVI. 558-560). After all, it would have been fruitless to go through several trials and trickery to come back, only to potentially endanger his chances at happiness, comfort, and even life appearing as himself after nearly two decades. He is thus able to gain intelligence on the suitors, the trustworthiness and faithfulness level of everyone including Penelope, his wife, and plan his ultimate revenge methodically. For instance, Athena whispers to Odysseys regarding the suitors, “You may collect a few more loaves, and learn who are the decent lads, and who are vicious” (XVII. 471-472). Both Athena and Odysseus...

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