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The Odyssey

Apr 14, 2001 1040 Words
Homer's poem The Odyssey depicts the tendency of people to ignore the consequences of their actions. Odysseus punished Penelope's suitors without thinking of consequences that he would have to endure. He did not acknowledge the consequences because that would prevent him from doing what he wants to do. Odysseus wanted to kill the suitors; they ate away at his fortune. Finding consequences for murdering the suitors would force Odysseus to realize what he is about to do is not a good idea. Odysseus chose to ignore the consequences and killed the suitors anyway. Odysseus had absolutely no reason to kill the suitors; they had the right to stay in his home because Penelope made them feel welcome, Penelope and Telemachus both told them that Odysseus was dead, and although Telemachus told them to leave, he did not have the right to do so. Throughout the poem, Penelope encourages the suitors to stay in her home by making them think they are welcome. With Odysseus gone Penelope chooses whom she hosts in the great palace. Penelope does hate the suitors but she never once tells them to leave. She even makes the suitors think that she would be choosing her new husband soon and in this way she makes them feel welcome in her home. Antinous, a suitor, responds to accusations Telemachus made to the suitors at an assembly.

It's not the suitors here who deserve the blame,
It's your own dear mother [Penelope], the matchless queen of cunning. Look here. For three years now, getting on to four,
she's played it fast and loose with all our hearts,
building each man's hopes-
dangling promises, dropping hints to each-
but all the while with something else in mind. (2.94-100)

Penelope makes each individual suitor feel special and makes him believe that she would pick him as her new husband. This action implies not only that she allowed the suitors to remain in her household, but more importantly that she wanted the suitors to stay. Therefore, Penelope's speech and actions toward the suitors justified their remaining in the home. Statements made by Telemachus and Penelope about Odysseus' whereabouts leads the suitors to believe that he is deceased and, therefore, that Penelope is single and ready to court once again. When a woman is widowed, she begins trying to find a new husband and single men come to court the woman. Since Penelope and Telemachus tell the suitors that Odysseus is dead, the suitors have the right to stay and court Penelope. When speaking to the suitors about weaving a shroud for Laertes, Penelope says, " ‘[…] King Odysseus is no more' " (2.105). By telling the suitors that her husband is dead, Penelope insinuates that she is single once again and looking for a husband. Telemachus also speaks to the suitors as if his father is deceased, telling them, "Now great Odysseus is dead…" (1.454). In essence, Telemachus gives away his mother when he notifies the suitors of Odysseus' supposed death. The death of Odysseus would mean there is a need for a new king of Ithaca. Penelope's new husband would become the new king of Ithaca. Because a king is extremely important to have, the suitors had the right to stay, not just for their own personal gain, but also for the welfare of the country. Telemachus commands the suitors to leave, but the suitors do not have to obey him because he is not at liberty to make that decision. Penelope is the rightful owner of the household because of Odysseus' absence. Therefore she decides which people may stay. Anyone else who lives in the house would not have the right to choose who is hosted or cast away. Telemachus, therefore, is not at liberty to make that decision. Telemachus' authority to tell the suitors to leave is further undermined by his immaturity, as shown by his tendency to resort to violence as a solution instead of using words. At an assembly with Ithacan citizens, Telemachus said "Oh I'd swing to attack if I had the power in me" (2.67). Telemachus voices his want for bloodshed just as a little kid pushes or shoves others if they are angry with them. A child's first instinct in disputes is to use force; they have to learn to use words instead. Telemachus uses violence just as a child uses violence. An immature person is not able to make important decisions well. Immature people should not be allowed to make important decisions because they are so close-minded and unable to recognize other ideas. Telemachus is still a child and has not matured enough to make such a heavy decision. Therefore, Telemachus cannot control the suitors' actions because of his immaturity and his low amount of authority.

In The Odyssey, Odysseus acts impulsively in killing the suitors. He attacks and kills them without contemplating the consequences for his actions. It is true that Odysseus wonders how he would handle the parents and relatives of the suitors once they were dead, but those possible consequences were not enough to keep him from murdering Perin 4

the suitors. Odysseus knows what would happen to him if he kills the suitors, yet he kills them anyway. Odysseus' choosing to ignore the consequences for his actions is an example of selfishness and greed. Ignoring the consequences allowed Odysseus to do what he wanted. If he had acknowledged them, he would not have killed the suitors. He was so set on getting back at them for their parasitism that he did not let anything get in his way. People today have the same problem as Odysseus did; they ignore the consequences of their actions. Ignoring consequences gets people in trouble. People need to think before they act; if there are serious consequences to what they are about to do, they should not do it, no matter how great whatever they are about to do seems. Homer demonstrates the need for people to acknowledge the consequences to their actions through his telling of the story of Odysseus and the slaughter of the suitors.

Works Cited

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

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