Essay On False Homecomings In The Odyssey

1010 words - 5 pages

The majority of the Odyssey is an account of Odysseus' adventures (or, rather, misadventures) trying to reach his homeland of Ithaka. Several of these adventures are false homecomings, the most prominent of which is his imprisonment on Kalypso's island. This false homecoming is strikingly different from what one would expect of Odysseus' real homecoming, but similar enough for parallels to be drawn between the two. Homer uses this false homecoming to foreshadow Odysseus' true homecoming.Throughout the Odyssey, Homer presents the reader with certain clues about what Odysseus feels his homecoming should (but not neccessarily will) be like. First of all, Odysseus wants to return to Ithaka. Homer goes as far as having Odysseus describe Ithaka: 'There is a mountain there that stands tall, leaf-trembling Neritos, and there are islands settled around it, lying one very close to another. There is Doulichion and Same, wooded Zakynthos, but my island lies low and away, last of all on the water...' (Bk. 9, ln. 21-25). Kalypso lives on island, which may indeed resemble Ithaka. In this way, Homer begins to alert the reader that this scene may be a false homecoming. But, simply the fact that Kalypso lives on an island is not enough evidence to draw the conclusion that this may foreshadow Odysseus's true homecoming. Other evidence is needed, and Homer provides it for us. Odysseus expects to return to his family and to the way of life which he is accustomed to. For the most part, Kalypso treats him as he is used to being treated--there is a certain sense of familiarity here. Returning from ten years of war with Troy and at least several years at sea, Odysseus wants to return to the comfort of home. Her cave has '...a great fire blazing on the hearth...'(Bk. 5, ln. 59) and '...even a god who came into that place would have admired what he saw' (Bk. 5, ln. 73-4). This residence is fit for a man of Odysseus' standing. Odysseus also wants to return to a land without conflict. Kalypso and her deserted island offer peace. Furthermore, Kalypso, '...singing inside the cave with a sweet voice as she went up and down the loom...' (Bk. 5, ln. 61-2), is reminiscent of Penelope. Odysseus wants to return to a good, faithful wife--Kalypso presents herself as the perfect domestic partner to win Odysseus's favor.So, Kalypso's island offers comfort, a sense of family, and familiarity. These aspects meet Odysseus's general requirements for a homecoming, but fail in the specifics. Homer is using this false homecoming as a foreshadowing of the true one, in which all the specifics will be met. First, Kalypso and her island offer all the comforts of Odysseus's home, but merely at the physical level. Kalypso does not offer civilization the way Odysseus thinks of civilization. Civilized lands and people offer hospitiality. When Telemachos asks Menelaos permission to leave his house and return home, Menelaos replies: 'Telemachos, I for my part never will long detain you here when you strain for home. I would disapprove of another hospitable man who was excessive in friendship, as of one excessive in hate' (Bk. 15, ln. 68-71). Initially, Kalypso appears to be a good hostess. When Odysseus attempts to leave and she forcibly detains him, Kalypso begins her pattern inhospitality. When Odysseus actually does return home to the suitors, he will not find hospitality being practiced in Ithaka. But, it is his image of his homecoming, not what will actually happen, that we are dealing with. To restore hospitality, Odysseus's will kill the suitors, thus making his homecoming what he expects it to be. By making Kalypso inhospitable, Homer is foreshadowing the state of Ithaka Odysseus will return to. Odysseus also expects to return to Penelope. Kalypso is a woman who appears to be a good wife, but she is not his wife. She cries over his loss, but Penelope has been lamenting over him for almost twenty years. She simply does not have the emotional attachment to him that Penelope does. Kalypso's cave is also lacking his son, Telemachos, and all of his people. Odysseus feels he needs to return to and recognize these people to be truly at home. Once again, Kalypso is appealing to his sense of family, but cannot replicate his specific family and people. It is these people and customs that Odysseus expects to return home to, and Homer is only using Kalypso's fake family and home to foreshadow this.When Odysseus finally reaches Ithaka, all that Homer has foreshadowed using Kalypso's island as a false homecoming is realized, and subsequently all of Odysseus's expectations are achieved. Odysseus returns to an island, but it is Ithaka. He is greeted with the inhospitality of the suitors (as Homer foreshadowed), but soon restores order and his own sense of civilization. Odysseus and Penelope (rather than Kalypso's perfect image of a wife) are reunited. Recognized by his son, his wife, and his people, Odysseus's homecoming is completely. No matter how desirable the world Kalypso created for Odysseus appeared, it was only a false homecoming used by Homer for it's generalities to foreshadow the specifics of Odysseus's true homecoming.

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