The Odyssey – Check-in the Fourth/Last

November 29, 2010 Readalong, Reading Nook 10

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).

My Thoughts
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. 

Readalong Interaction!
If you have written a post (not required) about Books 19-24, please link to it in the Mr. Linky below.

Make sure to visit  The Odyssey Check-in the First, Check-in the Second, and Check-in the Third if you missed them!

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?

Happy reading,

[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]

10 Responses to “The Odyssey – Check-in the Fourth/Last”

  1. Kristi

    There was much more action in these books. The actual fight was pretty gruesome. I agree that the 24th book seemed unnecessary.

    Thanks so much for hosting this readalong! I probably wouldn’t have read it if you hadn’t, and I’m so glad that I did. It was completely worth it. I’m asking for The Iliad for Christmas so I can read that as well.

    I’m not sure if I’ll join you for Ulysses. I’ve heard about how difficult it is and I’m not quite sure if I could handle it. :) We’ll see!

  2. Trisha

    I am so happy we did this as well. I’m with you that the middle section is a bit bland, but the exciting moments the book does have really make up for it in my opinion.

    Yay for Ulysses! I am so glad you guys are finally going to make me read that evil evil book. :)

  3. softdrink

    I think we all agree that Book 24 could’ve been left on the editor’s floor. A grand reunion would’ve made for a MUCH better ending.

    I can’t wait for Ulysses (and yes, I’m being sarcastic).

  4. richard.gagelittle

    All:

    I agree that the end of the book was disappointing but overall a wonderful read. You could spend so more time in re-reading to find
    all of its meaning. This was written 2600 years ago and how little have we changed – Odyssey is unfaithful and it is OK but there is so much fear and mistrust about Penelope character. She had to be a “saint” even after 20 years and could NOT move forward with her life.

    I did like the theme as “Women be predatory’ – Kyltaimnestra,
    Kalypso and Seireness – just to balance out the roles of Women
    and Men.

    In the Iliad – the gods spend alot more time in exercising their absolute powers over us mortals. I come out of this read in not liking Poseidon – and wonder how the cyclops could be his sons.

    A few thoughts.. Thanks RGL

  5. Trish

    *Kristi – I’m so glad you joined with us and I’m thrilled that you are asking for The Iliad for Christmas! Yippee!! ;) Maybe we’ll do a pre-Odyssey readalong sometime down the road. And I’m with you on Ulysses–but just crazy enough to say yes. :P

    *Amanda – Wish you would have joined us–maybe try the audio like Erin. I think she enjoyed it afterall.

    *Trisha – The Odyssey definitely ended on a good note, I agree! (except boring book 24). And WE’RE making you read Ulysses? That is all you and Jill missy! ;)

    *Softdrink – Grand reunion would have been…grand. And is it finally safe to say we found a readalong winner? Not sure we’ll be able to say the same for Ulysses.

    *Rich – I’m so thrilled that you joined us for the last week!! You make a great point about why this book is still being read 2600 years later–there are so many classic themes that seem to persist even today. And you’re right that future re-reads could uncover so much more meaning. I’d love to try a different translation next time just to get a different “feel.”

    I have to smile at your “Women be predatory” comment–some of the women in this tale certainly are vile! ;) Thanks for reading with us and sharing your thoughts.

  6. Sylvia

    Thanks for hosting this challenge, Trish! It was very interesting to read everyone’s thoughts. I think I might be interested in reading Ulysses next year, as well as Atwood’s Penelopiad. Thanks again!

  7. Shelley

    I’m way late in posting my final comments, but this has been a wonderful readalong! Thank you!
    As for Ulysses, I am planning on reading it, and planning on hating it. Isn’t that horrible? Maybe I’ll be surprised. I’m not sure if I can read it as part of a readalong, because the last time I tried, it took me a week to read the first two pages…

  8. Tom

    Thought I’d let you all know I made it. Finished this weekend. Well done to all…and to my self!

    Overall, The Odyssey is a worth while read made easier thanks to the Fagles translation. I enjoyed it.

    Happy Holidays!
    Tom

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