A Man Is a Dog's Best Friend

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In Book 17 of The Odyssey, Homer presents his readers with a heartfelt moment between Odysseus and his dog, Argos, after a twenty-year separation. What might frustrate Homer’s readers, however, is that Homer chooses to let Argos acknowledge his master, while Odysseus does not necessarily reciprocate the action. As a part of the audience, I surely would have liked to see Odysseus at least pat the dog to let Argos know that he remember too. Unfortunately, the readers are not granted this wish-fulfillment. Instead, Homer deliberately uses this reunion to demonstrate the true moment of homecoming for Odysseus, as well as to demonstrate how Argos serves as Odysseus’ mirror.

The encounter with Argos is perhaps the truest and purest moment of homecoming for Odysseus. This recognition is solely based on loyalty and affection and also conveys how Odysseus surely belongs to Ithaca. This loyalty that Argos has for Odysseus is one that does not need testing as opposed to other characters; in fact, it is given without hesitation. Also, Argos is the only creature that Odysseus could completely reveal himself without danger. Although Eumaeus is, in fact, present in this scene, he does leave shortly after. It is important to also note that Odysseus, as cunning as he is, could send Eumaeus away from that scene at any moment. Odysseus, however, chooses not to. Instead, “Odysseus glanced to the side and flicked away a tear, hiding it from Eumaeus, diverting his friend in a hasty, offhand way” (17.333-335). Here, it is clear that Homer prefers to elicit admiration for Odysseus’s stoicism and self-control instead of offering his readers wish-fulfillment.

Another reason for Odysseus’ lack of acknowledgement for Argos deals with Odysseus himself. As we know, it is a difficult time for the returning protagonist. Odysseus lost almost everything including his ship, his men, his property, and even possibly his wife. Because of these unfortunate circumstances, he is diminished in both...
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