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CHARACTER ANALYSIS (continued)
Calypso's island, the reader learns at the start of the poem, has grown tedious to Odysseus. He would gladly die if he could see the smoke leaping up in his native land. For eight years, Odysseus has lived in Ogygia, an enchanted land of marvelous beauty. Yet Odysseus longs to leave Calypso for the world of his home - the world that shows beneath Penelope's clouded beauty.
Calypso loves Odysseus deeply and sincerely. She expresses a chaffing regret when she learns that the gods at Olympus disapprove of her love for a mortal and that Zeus commands that she release Odysseus. She offers to help him leave her island; yet she also wants him to live with her forever, ageless and immortal. There is an endearing simplicity about her in her reliance on her love and beauty. Despite her charms and the promise of immortality, Odysseus chooses Penelope and Ithaca. He acknowledges the privilege of living with her, but cannot remain with her. He is a mortal and must choose a mortal life, even though it promises sorrow and pain.
Calypso represents the outer oblivion just as Circe represents the inner. To accept the immortality that she offers is to forego one's identity, and Odysseus will not give this up after what he has learned about it. The quiet period of his eight years with her conveys his near entrance into timelessness. His leaving of the goddess and his subsequent recovering of his old heroic power at Scheria indicates his rebirth into humanity. He now knows both timeless nature and death, and he will act with this double knowledge when he reaches home a beggar.
If Ogygia was timeless, Scheria has the brightness (and some of the sorrows) of youth. Nausicaa, Alcinous' daughter, has a dream of approaching marriage that Athena sends her. The goddess suggests she go to the river, on the pretext of washing clothes, where she might find a husband. Nausicaa charmingly conceals from her parents her real intention in going to the river. She displays virtuous concern that her brothers should have clean linen for their dances and asks her father for the mule cart. Alcinous can understand her reasons for going. The father in him comes through clearly.
Nausicaa meets Odysseus and brings him towards the city. She shows a charmingly practical mind when she asks Odysseus to accompany them only to the edge of the city, but no further. This is because she fears gossip. She imagines people looking through her hopes of marriage with the god-like stranger. She also resents the affronts of local suitors. Yet she does admit that she would herself think ill of a girl who thus brought home a stranger. She ends her instructions to Odysseus with advice to seek out her mother. She, if well disposed, can aid Odysseus.
All happens as Nausicaa has said. When Odysseus is about to enter the banquet, he sees her again, standing, as did Penelope, by a pillar, which reminds him of home. She bids him not to forget her in his own country. He replies that he will pray to her there all his days as to a goddess. Throughout his travels, characters disappear as the hero moves on, but this final sight of Nausicaa is exceptional. She is not only important for the plot, but also for the mood of renewal at Scheria. Her love for Odysseus comes to nothing. But her disappointed hope is more than made up for by her health, youth, and vitality. She will someday lose what Odysseus has already lost, but he will retain the memory of her youth.