The Importance of Book Xi to the Odyssey

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In the beginning of Book XI, Odysseus goes to Hades where people confront him from his past, present and future. He is confused and dazed and seems to change as the different characters address him. All of the elements of Book XI show that it is the most pivotal book in Odysseus's voyage homeward and in the development of his character. In Book XI, Homer reinforces major themes that repeat through the rest of the story that show Odysseus he can get home using the ideas seen throughout the text. Hospitality is a theme in Book XI that occurs in many of the other books of The Odyssey. The soldiers give hospitality toward Hades and Persephone though their sacrifices so that Odysseus can visit the Underworld. This is an example of irony in the book because the reason that Odysseus and his men are in this situation is because they did not give a sacrifice to Poseidon as they were supposed to do. This time, however, Odysseus did as Kirke instructed and made "offerings of flesh to the gods below—to sovereign Death, to pale Persephone" (186), allowing entrance to Odysseus to go to Hades and learn his future. Fate, one of the most important themes in Greek culture, is expressed in Book XI in many ways. The whole basis of this book consists of Odysseus going to the Underworld to learn his and his shipmates' fate. First, Odysseus goes to Teiresias to find out his fate. Teiresias tells him how he will get home safely, about the suitors in his house and how he will kill them, and even how Odysseus will eventually die. After Teiresias tells Odysseus the information he needs, he says, "and all this shall be just as I foretell" (189), assuring Odysseus he will play out his fate correctly. Homer also emphasizes loyalty in this book of The Odyssey by using the ghost of Elpenor. When confronted with the fact that one of his crewmembers has died without his knowledge, Odysseus promises Elpenor that he will give him a proper burial, proving his loyalty after his return by sending...
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