The Odyssey


Books 21 to 24

Book 21 Summary

Athena inspires Penelope to announce the archery contest to her suitors. From a locked storeroom, Penelope retrieves Odysseus’s massive bow. She brings it into the feasting hall and explains the challenge. Telemachus lines up the twelve axes, and the suitors proceed to take turns struggling desperately with the bow. None of them even come close to succeeding.

While the suitors struggle through the impossible challenge, Odysseus reveals his true identity to Eumaeus and Philoetius, who joyfully agree to help him. He sends Eumaeus to warn the women of the palace to lock themselves in their rooms and not come out until the sounds of fighting have dissipated. He sends Philoetius to lock the courtyard gate so that the suitors cannot escape. Then he returns to the contest and asks to be given a chance with the bow himself. Penelope defends his right to have a chance in the competition, though the suitors are outraged. Wanting to ensure her safety, Telemachus tells his mother to return to her room and lock the door.

The suitors mock Odysseus relentlessly, but he takes up the bow, strings it with ease, and fires a single arrow through the twelve successive axes. He then turns to Telemachus, who takes a stand next to his father, spear in hand.

Book 22 Summary

Odysseus tears off his beggar’s disguise and, with a prayer to Apollo, fires his next arrow at Antinous’s throat. The evil suitor, a wine goblet half-raised to his lips, is instantly killed. Odysseus then reveals his true identity to the suitors, who begin to see that they are doomed. Eurymachus desperately tries to foist all the blame on Antinous in an effort to save his skin, and even offers to repay Odysseus for all they have taken. Odysseus is not interested; he repeats his promise that they are all about to die. Moments later, Eurymachus is dead from an arrow through the liver and Amphinomus meets his death at the point of Telemachus’s spear. The odds are against the unprepared suitors, who have no armor...

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Essays About The Odyssey