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Free Study Guide-The Odyssey by Homer-Free Book Notes Summary
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BOOK 14

Summary

Odysseus reaches Eumaeus' hut in the disguise of a beggar and is almost attacked by the hounds. Eumaeus welcomes him hospitably, while also lamenting the loss of his master, Odysseus, and the evil deeds of the suitors. Odysseus tries to convince the swineherd about his master's imminent return, but Eumaeus asks him not to speak false words in the hope of receiving gifts. Odysseus then relates a long and fanciful tale of his history and whereabouts. He claims to be the son of a wealthy man from Crete and to have fought at Troy. He again claims to have heard tidings of Odysseus, but Eumaeus refuses to believe him. Eumaeus sacrifices the best of the swine for Odysseus' dinner, and Odysseus is pleased by his swineherd's treatment of a stranger. That night it rains heavily, and Odysseus decides to test whether his swineherd will be good enough to give him his own cloak. He relates a fictitious story in which Odysseus succeeds in getting him a cloak when he is without one in the battle of Troy. The swineherd, happy that Odysseus is being praised, gives his guest his cloak readily. Odysseus is made comfortable for the night, while the swineherd goes out to sleep with the boars, beneath the hollow of a rock.

Notes

Books 13-24 tell the tale of the hero's return. The setting is domestic and the mood is very different from that which dominates Books 9-12. The adventures now are less fantastic and more concerned with the behavior of humans at a familiar and not very exalted level.


Odysseus, disguised as an old beggar, reaches the hut of Eumaeus, his chief swineherd, and is greeted there hospitably. He learns details of the suitor's transgressions through the complaints of Eumaeus. Odysseus' Iliadic gift of eloquence continues unabated here. He claims to be born at Crete, and the fictitious adventures that he relates prove that he has a fertile imagination. He repeatedly promises Eumaeus that his master, Odysseus, will return, but Eumaeus has been fooled before and refuses to believe him. Eumaeus is a loyal servant and comes across as a sensible man.

Homer emphasizes the need for Odysseus' return through Eumaeus' complaints; the pathetic plight of Penelope is the main complaint. She has welcomed anyone in the past twenty years who has claimed to have heard of Odysseus' fate, and there have been many who have lied and taken advantage of her vulnerability. As Eumaeus elaborates on the suitors' misbehavior, Odysseus silently seethes. Keeping these events in mind, his anger in the slaughter scene that comes later is understandable.

Ithaca itself appears in strong contrast to Phaecia. The terrain is rocky and fit for goats, not horses. The climate is not as pleasant, but there is plenty of water and many domestic animals. It is a place that raises tough men such as Odysseus, who is the most enduring and cunning of all warriors. Odysseus himself never ceases to be conniving, and he relates a fabulous tale just to test Eumaeus' hospitality. Eumaeus, of course, passes the test with flying colors. He appears as a large-hearted, yet prudent, man, concerned for both his master and his master's property. He is most concerned about the welfare of Odysseus' family and property, and Odysseus appreciates him for that.

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