Hospitality in The Odyssey displays its major role in Greek society and especially its importance for Telemachus and his interaction with guests. The sense of hospitality is left to the perception of different narrators through the excerpt that dice up the difference between cordiality among man and divine. The importance of hospitality in Greek culture aids the significance of Telemachus’ manners especially when facing the filthy suitors and greeting Athena, who is an imperative benefactor throughout the epic. The perceptions of hospitality become the most key aspect of the characters amongst the palace, and the intimacy or lack there of, is key to attitude that Homer creates towards the characters in the epic. The importance of hospitality is the point of view given in the excerpt. In Odysseus’ absence, Telemachus has remained a weak and aloof character as suitors crowd and abuse the place. Telemachus conducts the palace with his expectation of hospitality, allowing the suitors to feast on food and drink as he is exhausted by their abuse of his offerings. Xenia was the hospitality offered to please the gods and avoid their wrath; Telemachus offers his guests the food he believes is the fulfillment of his host duty. But, the part that hospitality plays is subject to the view that Athena gets of Telemachus’ actions, the excerpt’s point of narration is more key to Homers message. Though Telemachus believes offering food will display good xenia, it is that offering for the suitors that exhaust him as a character; his hospitality becomes a double-edged sword.
Homer develops the importance of hospitality through his portrayal of viewpoint as they shift throughout the passage. The nature of the passage goes through turns in narration that separates the opposition between hospitality for the host and the guest. As Telemachus, lying among the suitors “heart obsessed with grief,” (Homer, Odyssey 1.133) Athena is telling the story as she views his efforts to be a gentle host. Telemachus interprets hospitality as an offering of food and drink to the “swaggering suitors,” (Homer, Odyssey 1.124) but Athena is the godly audience to impress and she narrates her assessment of his exhausted hospitality. The language of the beginning of the excerpt displays Athena’s disapproval of how Telemachus’ hospitality depletes him, the language of Athena’s point of view depicts the palace in shambles of Telemachus’ exhausted efforts.
A main part of Homer’s language is the way he portrays the people about the palace to represent their attitudes and personalities. The first portion of the passage, from the view point of Athena, is also key to know that hospitality is a practice important to please the gods. Though Athena is entering without Telemachus’ knowledge and in a disguise as a random stranger to which he greets with a “royal welcome.” (Homer, Odyssey 1.145) Homer brings Athena to the palace in disguise because on top of her observations of his offerings, Telemachus welcomes Athena in an ordinary sense as a stranger. Telemachus’ version of hospitality leads him to give up gifts of food which allow the suitors to walk all over him, but Athena does not respect this form of hospitality in the same way, regarding those “swaggering suitors” (Homer, Odyssey 1. 124) with a sense of disgust and displeasure in their hospitality as a guest. The language of the beginning of the passage rants Athena’s countless observations of the suitors’ greed that exhausts the reader and portrays the exhaustion that she witnesses in Telemachus.
The transition of the passage changes to a narration of what Telemachus feels and dreams of, a shift that proves perspectives can change the angle of emotion and particularly the view of hospitality. Inside Telemachus’ emotions the narration expresses his grief that is a direct cause of his weakness, the language creates that sense of hesitation and weakness in his mood. The breaks in the sentences exhibit a sense of desperation in Telemachus with his fathers absence, “He could almost see his magnificent father, here .../ in the mind’s eye—if only he might drop from the clouds” (Homer, Odyssey 1.134-135). This second perspective of narration expresses desperation in Telemachus’ thoughts and connects his slumped body language to the exhaustion of his hospitality. The third shift in narration steps away from the characters in the scene and creates and outside view of both Telemachus and Athena interacting. Telemachus then goes to greet Athena as she arrives at the door his body language changes from slumped to energetic to express his well-mannered hospitality. After the narration plays out Telemachus’ exhausted attempts to fulfill hospitality with food he meets Athena disguised as a stranger, he grabs her hand and delights her with “winged words.” (Homer, Odyssey 1.144) The language exemplifies this breach of intimacy that Telemachus lacked with food alone; he grabbed Athena’s hand and crossed into a physical touch while swooning her with kind greetings. The sense of relationship created by his greeting breaks formal business to emotion generosity. Furthermore, the outside narration gives the objective view between host and guest that defines relevant hospitality and the intimacy that xenia is truly prized upon. While The Odyssey evokes a pride in hospitality, the power of xenia is powerless without the manipulation of perception. The use of language and punctuation is fundamental to the development of hospitality and attitude delivered through the characters’ actions. Among grief and good hosting, perception of power and the use of cordiality exemplify Homer’s choice of narration. The account of Telemachus amongst the suitors poses the turning point for Telemachus himself as well as the confidence that leads him to help his father in The Odysseys’ greater picture.