Symbolism in the Odyssey

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In The Odyssey, Homer uses many literary devices to reach out to his audience. He wants the reader to look past the surface of the text and go deeper into its meaning. This is accomplished by using symbolism throughout the epic. The most significant of these symbols are Odysseus’ great bow, the shroud that Penelope weaves for Laertes, the island of Ithaca, and the sea itself. The great bow symbolizes both Odysseus’ strength and the obvious truth: he is the only one fit both for Penelope and to lead Ithaca. When the suitors struggle to do what Odysseus does without effort, it proves that not a single one of them will be able to replace the king. Eurymakhos admits, “Curse this day . . . What a shame to be repeated of us, after us!” (489-490 l 256-264). The suitors soon realize he is rightand become embarrassed, realizing they are not worthy to take his place. Moreover, the shroud Penelope is weaving represents how swiftly and smartly she handles her situation at home. These men are taking advantage of her hospitality and treating her like some poor beggar woman instead of like royalty. Since she is not capable of fighting them out of her house, she uses her mind over her muscle to deceive them. She unweaves the shroud each night for three years, until she is caught, giving Odysseus enough time to come home and take Ithaca back. Obviously, the island of Ithaca stands for Odysseus’ long awaited homecoming and the final destination of his journey. It is the place where he grows up and works his entire life to build a home, a family, and a kingdom. It is also the place where he fights so hardly to return. Even when he is offered a life of luxury and immortality by the goddess Calypso, he admits his heart’s desire when he explains to her, “Yet, it is true, each day I long for home . . . Let the trial come,” (283 l 228-233). Here he proves he will face any hardship in order to reach Ithaca. To do so, he travels for many years by sea, which is, ironically, the symbol...
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