During their last meal together, Calypso makes Odysseus an incredible offer. Describe this offer and Odysseus’ reply. What does this convey about his character and about the values, attitudes, and beliefs of ancient Greek Society?
During their last meal together, Calypso attempts to coax Odysseus into staying with her by offering him eternal life on a beautiful island with a lustrous goddess. “Stay right here, preside in our house with me,” she offers. However, before this, Calypso mentions that Odysseus would experience great suffering if he decides to embark on the journey home. She does not just say that Odysseus will experience pain, but that “pains are fated to fill [Odysseus’] cup”. This is extremely significant as Odysseus has already had to endure the entire Trojan war, a total of 20 years away from his family, and the death of his entire crew; so, “enough pain to fill [Odysseus’] cup”, indicates to Odysseus that he will experience pain great enough to completely consume him. By effectively contrasting the prospect of pain with the wonderful circumstances of immortality with a beautiful goddess, Calypso manages to make her offer even more appealing. Despite this, in response, Odysseus is still unwavering in his ambition to return home. However, he chooses his words very carefully and masks his decline in praise. This can be seen in the first sentence of his reply where he addresses Calypso as “great goddess” and later in the passage, where he says how “[Penelope (his wife)] falls far short of [Calypso]”. In addition, he also addresses Penelope as “wise” rather than beautiful to avoid even the slightest implication that he may prefer his wife over Calypso herself, and thus possibly incur the wrath of an immortal Goddess. This also indicates that Odysseus may not only value Penelope for her beauty, but for her personality as well, and adds a certain depth to his character. He then speaks about how despite Penelope is far inferior to Calypso, he still “longs, pines all his days”, to return home. This gives Calypso the impression that it is not because Odysseus desires someone more than her that he wants to return to his home, but because he desires home itself, eliminating any possible jealousy Calypso may have had over Penelope. His use of emotive language such as “pine” and “long” in this phrase functions to invoke a sense of pity for Odysseus by accentuating how much he yearns to return home, but is unable to. Overall, all these techniques have contributed to enabling Odysseus’ reply not to come across as a refusal but rather, as a respectful decline, and has allowed him to escape Calypso’s island without incurring her wrath. His manipulation and demand over words throughout his conversation with Calypso works to emphasise a quality of Odysseus’ that comprises a massive part of his character, and that he is renowned for: his cleverness. Moreover, the fact that he was careful with his words to begin with, shows that he has taken into consideration Calypso’s goddess status, and their difference in strength, further highlighting this trait. Furthermore, Odysseus being able to decline such a generous offer such as immortality, despite Calypso prophesising immense pain awaiting him if he did decline, shows how much the Greeks (especially Odysseus) value their home and overall, works to indicate the prevalence of Nostos, or Homecoming, in ancient Greek Society.