Welcome to The Odyssey Readalong Check-in the Fourth/Last (Books 19-24).
Synopsis of Books XIX-XIV
When we left off last week, Odysseus had returned disguised as a beggar, the suitors were getting fairly drunk and rowdy, and Penelope chastised them for taking from her instead of giving gifts. This week we entered into the last leg of Odysseus’s journey which brought back all the action that was missing last week. Penelope calls Ody into her chamber and they talk about this and that (boy can Ody spin a yarn!). The nurse recognizes Ody when she’s bathing his feet, but Athena distracts Penelope so she doesn’t notice (XIX).
Penelope proposes a contest for the suitors to win her hand–a feat which only Odysseus can truly accomplish. The suitors are to string Ody’s bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axeheads. Several of the suitors struggle with the bow and call upon Apollo for help. Ody asks to try his hand and despite much protesting from the suitors, Telemachus gives Ody the bow to shoot (XXI). Bullseye for Ody and bloody and brutal slaying of the suitors commences–as well as a not so pleasant end to the women who betrayed Odysseus and Penelope (XXII). Odysseus finally reunites with Penelope after mentioning the secret sign (XXIII) and there is finally peace in the land–after some minor meddling with the gods, again (XXIV).
Along with the second section we read with all the famous characters, these books were the most entertaining and familiar to me. There is so much build up to Odysseus’s homecoming to Ithaca that it’s hard not to be excited about his meeting with Penelope and his unveiling of his identity to the suitors before he starts kicking some serious ass. Of course we have some setting up that we must endure (not as bad since half of it was carved into last week’s reading), but once we get to the contest part–goodness gracious! Homer doesn’t spare anything when it comes to the guts and glory of Odysseus’s revenge. I think this section even rivaled the encounter with the Cyclops! Of course, nothing is done without ubiquitous help of Athena who lends her hand in stunting the suitors’ fight.
I’ll do a more focused review of The Odyssey as a whole in a few weeks (or at least that’s what I tell myself…still working on that Les Miserables post), but I did want to mention Odysseus and Penelope’s reunion. No matter how I play the reunion in my mind I find myself disappointed that there wasn’t more passion between the two. Sure, the passion is there, but I wanted more yearning between the characters–to see how hard it was for Odysseus to resist his wife after not having seen her for 20 years.
And finally, what the heck happened with the ending? Did you feel like the whole story seemed to fall flat with the visit to Laërtes and then the gods’ call for peace within Ithaca and then…the end? I really enjoyed the story as a whole so I’m trying not to be let down by the ending, but I felt like the entirety of book 24 could have simply been left out.
But in the end? So glad to have read this and so glad you all joined me. It was a pleasant switch from the more taxing readalongs I’ve participated in this year.
If you have written a post (not required) about Books 19-24, please link to it in the Mr. Linky below.
Thank you all for taking this journey with me! A special shoutout to Jill and Trisha who originally agreed to this crazy journey when I threw out the idea on Twitter several months ago. They’re talking about continuing the journey in 2011 with Ulysses by James Joyce. I know I’m crazy enough to have already bought my copy! You in, too?
[Still unplugged, but I was thinking about you all on Thanksgiving–hoping that you had a lovely holiday. Hope to be back soon…I miss this thing they call blogging]