In book 23 of the Odyssey, reoccurring Homeric themes appear, characters roles change, and a homecoming for an epic hero is finally accomplished. Book 23 may be the one book in this poem that can be related the closest to the poem as a whole. In this book, we see the relationship of a god/goddess and a human being as a reoccurring theme throughout Homers works. This god/human relationship is shown throughout the poem mainly through the actions of Athene, who is trying to assure that Odysseus receives the glorious homecoming that he deserves.
Book 23 concludes Odysseuss twenty-year homecoming journey by uniting him with his beloved wife, Penelope. The homecoming that is looked forward to by so many throughout the poem is finalized by the romantic reunion of Odysseus and Penelope This reunion shows a cunning side of Penelope that is almost the same as her husband, Odysseus, shows numerous times throughout the epic. This cunningness by Penelope exhibits a different example of the role of women in the time of the Odyssey.
The relationships between humans and gods are looked at numerous times in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Gods in these poems hurt some humans and help others. The relationship with Odysseus and certain gods is what shapes this epic into what it is. The reason that Odysseus is so misfortunate on his way home is because he angered Poseidon, the god of the sea. Also, the reason that Odysseus eventually received his homecoming is because of the admiration and love of the goddess, Athene.
The relationship between Athene and Odysseus is shown in book 23 The goddess, Athene, and Odysseus are two characters that are very similar to one another in their personalities. Both Athene and Odysseus use their intelligence to trick others in thinking that they are somebody else. Odysseus quick wit seems to be what Athene appreciates most about him. Her appreciation is seen in line 287 of book 8 when she smiled on him, and stroked him with her hand after he made up that long, detailed story to try and trick her. This shows her appreciation for his great ability to deceive. She enjoys how he uses his resourcefulness in making up this story.
Athene, once again, helps out Odysseus and Penelope in book 23 when she lengthens the nighttime, because both Penelope and Odysseus are similar in that they are quick-witted and cunning. Athenes help is described by the quote: Now Dawn of the rosy fingers would have dawned on their weeping, had not the gray-eyed goddess Athene planned it otherwise. She held the long night back at the outward edge, she detained Dawn of the golden throne by the Ocean, and would not let her harness her fast-footed horses who bring the daylight to people (XXIII. 1-246).
Athene does things to help Odysseus, because she wants him to fulfill his goal and receive his homecoming. Athene has so much respect for Odysseus that she wants to do anything to help him get to his homeland and regain his kingdom and household from the wrath of the suitors. Athene helps Odysseus and his family a number of times throughout the epic in order to do so. Athene even helps Odysseus son, Telemachos, in the journey that he has in the first four books of the epic. This journey prepares Telemachos for the battle with the suitors.
Athene and Odysseus both greatly appreciate one another. Odysseus appreciates Athene for all the help that she gives to him. Athene appreciates Odysseus for his resourcefulness and for being far the best of all mortal men for counsel and stories (VIII. 297-298). This shows that Athene likes that Odysseus is a great leader as well as a great deceiver. Many times within the Odyssey, Odysseus either physically disguises himself or tells artful lies in order to hide his true identity. For example, he does this with Polephemos the Cyclops, with the suitors, and even with his own wife.
This is done in order to obtain the righteous homecoming in which he has been striving for. He tricks the Cyclops in order to escape death, and he disguises himself in the presence of the suitors to assure that he is not recognized, and therefore, can organize his plan. He, again, disguises himself for Penelope, his wife, in order to make sure that she has been loyal to him. These are all dishonest, yet justifiable, because they are to assure that Odysseus does not suffer the same inglorious homecoming as Agamemnon (XI: 405-434).
Athene and Odysseus are described very similarly throughout the epic. They are both described as deceiving. Athene relates the two of them when she says, for you and I both know sharp practice (VIII. 296-297). In these lines, she relates to Odysseus that she thinks they are both good deceivers. The relationship between Athene and Odysseus is important, because if not for the goddess, Poseidon may have fulfilled his own goal and destroyed Odysseus. Penelope, like Odysseus and Athene, also has the ability to deceive. She shows this in book 23 as well as in her confrontations with the suitors.
She lies to her suitors to delay having to choose one to be her husband. Like Odysseus, her lying is for a worthwhile reason. She lies to the suitors because she still believes that her real husband, Odysseus, is still alive. In book 23, Penelope turns the tides on Odysseus, assuring him trustworthy by using her own trickery. Where we usually see Odysseus lying to people to assure their loyalty, Penelope shows that she is truly Odysseus equal by using this form of trickery on him. Odysseus parallels the trickery that Penelope uses on him when he tricks his father, Laertes, in book 24.
Like Penelope, when she first sees Odysseus in book 23, Odysseus is at a crossroads when he first sees his father in book 24. He is contemplating whether to hug and kiss his father and tell him of his journey, or to question him [Laertes] first about everything and make trial of him (XXIV. 236-238). The choice that Penelope has to make is described quite similarly when it says, She spoke, and came down from the chamber, her heart pondering much, whether to keep away and question her dear husband, or to go up an kiss his head, taking his hands (XXIII. 85-87).
Both Penelope and Odysseus take the route to assure loyalty. They need to assure this loyalty because they both have people around them that are looking to deceive they. If they are deceived, they each have much to lose. The parallelism that Odysseus and Penelope have in books 23 and 24, show how much these two are alike. In book 23, Penelope lies to a person who is closer to her than anybody in the world, because she has doubts. Odysseus has the same doubts about his own fathers loyalty to him. Penelopes trickery on Odysseus brings upon a new example of the role of women in the years following the Trojan War.
The Odyssey, as a poem, is the product of a society and time where the males played the dominant role in society. Women in Ancient Greece occupied a subservient position. Women were valued in society, but they only participated in the affairs of the society when the men who ran their lives approved it. Immortal woman like Athene, Circe, and Calypso were treated with more equality and respect by a man than any other mortal woman, but due to the love and respect that Odysseus has for Penelope, he rightfully treats her as his equal.
Loyalty is the prime character trait that Odysseus looks for in any of his companions. If a person in disloyal to Odysseus, he/she will lose their life. An example of this is seen in book 22 when the disloyal Melanthios as well as the serving women are gruesomely murdered for betraying Odysseus. On the other hand, Odysseus will treat the people that are loyal to him with kindness and respect. Penelope is a prime example of loyalty and fidelity. She refuses to marry for years because she is waiting for the return of the husband that she loves so dearly.
By tricking Odysseus in book 23, she earns a higher level of respect and admiration by him. This respect and admiration is much like that which Athene has for Odysseus for much of the same reasons. The goal that Odysseus has throughout the epic is to get home to his beloved wife and son. Book 23 is the conclusion of his journey home. Odysseus has returned to his kingdom, joined with his son, and taken back his home. The last thing that he must accomplish to finalize his homecoming is to reunite with his one true love, Penelope.
In accomplishing this in book 23, this is the end of the journey that has become known as the Odyssey. Book 24 seems to be Homers way of showing the likeliness of Odysseus and Penelope. Book 24 also relates why the families of the suitors dont seek vengeance on Odysseus. Book 24 is an important book due to the way it concludes the story of Odysseus, but Odysseuss journey home ends when he and Penelope reunite. Book 23 of the Odyssey serves as a conclusion to the journey that Odysseus has been on for ten long years. Odysseus wraps up his ten-year journey home with an extra-long night of passion with his wife.
This chapter also reiterates the importance of mans relationship with the gods and goddesses. In addition, we see Penelope use Odysseus-like trickery in order to assure her husband was whom he said. This trickery relates so closely with that of Odysseus in the last book that readers can see Odysseus and his wife as equals. With her trickery and cunningness, she goes against the standard way that modern women of that day are looked at. Book 23 includes many themes and ideas that are repeated throughout the poem. With these themes and ideas present, book 23 serves as a tying together of the epic as a whole.