In Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of the Odyssey, many scenes exist that parallel, predict, and contrast each other in various ways. For example, the self-revelation scene in book IX from line 548 to line 592 where Odysseus announces his name to the Kyklopes, and also in book XXII from line 36 to line 84 when he reveals his identity to the suitors in his great hall. These two scenes closely relate to one another in both similar and contrasting ways.
Both scenes are based primarily on the self-revelation of Odysseus and tend to differ regarding the times at which Odysseus introduces himself, and the overall effect the revealing aspects have on Odysseus, be it positive or negative; however, they are also similar in that they both result in identical responses from his adversaries and portray the glory of battle. In order to completely analyze these two closely related scenes, one must consider both the differences between them as well as their similarities.
One of the primary differences between the scenes in which Odysseus reveals his identity to Kyklops and to the suitors is the time at which Odysseus chooses to do so. When dealing with Kyklops, he does not reveal himself until after he has already defeated the giant and is almost free from danger. This luckily turns out to be beneficial to him due to that fact that Kyklops had been warned about the harm that great Odysseus would be certain to bring him. If he had learned Odysseus’ name when he could catch him, Odysseus would have been one of the first men to die.
Conversely, Odysseus chose o reveal his true identity to the suitors before he fought them to the death. This also worked to his favor in that upon realizing who he was “sickly green fear pulled at [the suitors’] entrails, and their eyes flickered looking for some hatch or hideaway from death” (22. 44-6). This fear incurred doubt into the suitors’ minds and would definitely have weakened their collective ability to fight with all of their strength. In other words, they automatically knew that death was coming for them upon realizing the presence of King Odysseus, and this likely aided in his odds against them.
Even still, Odysseus was not the only ones to react to his dramatic self-revelation in each of these instances; his shipmates and comrades in arms displayed strong emotions as well. The contrasting effects of Odysseus’ self-revealing actions in both scenes again clearly illustrate the differences in these two seemingly similar scenes. Upon learning Odysseus’ true identity, Kyklops prays to Poseidon, “should destiny intend that he shall see his roof again among his family in his father land, far be that day, and dark the years between” (9. 0-3).
Had Odysseus not revealed himself, Kyklops would never have guessed who he really was (he was looking for “some giant, armed in giant force” (9. 560-1)) and consequently the gods may not have punished him and his men. He possibly would have made it back to Ithaka many years earlier than he did saving himself and his family from much of the emotional torture they endured during his absence. On the other hand, unmasking himself to the suitors in book XXII gave Odysseus an advantage over his adversaries.
After he confidently identified himself to the suitors, Odysseus then challenged all of the suitors to “fight [the suitors’] way out, or run for it” (22. 69-70), he also informs them that “there will be killing till the score is paid” (22. 68). With this, they “felt their knees fail, and their hearts”(22. 72), and entered into battle with Odysseus in fear, which swayed the odds in his favor. This was the right time for Odysseus to reveal himself in that it struck fear into their hearts bringing a lack of confidence on the suitors’ parts.
Revealing himself and starting the fight at this time also forced them to fight him without any weapons or a way out. Had he waited for another time or place, the suitors may have been able to flee or reach for their spears and shields immediately. Although these two scenes which concentrate on Odysseus’ self-revealing moments tend to differ in a couple of ways, they also tend to contain certain similarities between them. The reactions of Odysseus’ adversaries upon learning his identity in both of these scenes are almost exactly alike.
When Odysseus reveals his name to Kyklops, Kyklops first recognizes the danger associated with Odysseus as taught to him in a prophecy given to by Telemos. He then offers to be nice to Odysseus when he says, “come back, Odysseus, and I’ll treat you well, praying the god of earthquake to befriend you – his son I am” (9. 564-6). The same reaction is seen in the suitors as they first recognized Odysseus when “sickly green fear pulled at their entrails, and their eyes flickered looking for some hatch or hideaway from death” (22. -7), respecting how dangerous Odysseus as an adversary.
Then Eurymakhos in a kindly manner pleads, “as for ourselves, we’ll make restitution of wine and meat consumed, and add, each one, a tithe of twenty oxen with gifts of bronze and gold to warm your heart”(22. 58-61). Odysseus then rejects the offerings in both of the scenes with furious death threats. To the Kyklops he exclaims, “if I could take your life I would and take your time away, and hurl you down to hell””(9. 71-2), and he answers the suitors’ generous offer with, “there will be illing till the score is paid” (22. 69).
Here he not only turns the kind offers down, but also takes the offense and violently threatens to take both the suitors’ and Kyklops’ lives. The subsequent reactions of Odysseus’ adversaries to his death threats in each of the scenes are also very similar. The Kyklops prays to Poseidon to hinder Odysseus’ return to his homeland and hurls a boulder at his ship, while the suitors begin to charge Odysseus and take him on in the way that they would attack a Roman army.
The element containing the adversaries’ reactions to the self-relevance of Odysseus points out similarities between the two scenes, and is accompanied by another element which also points out existing similarities and is also a reoccurring theme of the story. In both of the discussed scenes, Odysseus introduces himself to his adversaries in a very boisterous and forceful manner. He does it with absolute confidence and power as though there is no way his enemies will ever defeat him.
When Odysseus revealed his identity to Kyklops, he “let [his] anger flare and yelled” (9. 547), and in dealing with the suitors he did so, “glaring under his brows” (22. 36). These lines are extremely similar in that when one lets his or her “anger flare and [yell]” (9. 547), that person’s eyes are certainly “glaring” (22. 36). The intense emotion that Odysseus displays as he reveals himself in both these scenes is exactly the same, and it portrays the theme regarding the glory of battle.
In these times battle was regarded as a very glorious event, and the winner was crowned as a champion and known to far away lands for his accomplishments. Odysseus recognized this glory, and in yearning to gain it he wanted all of his adversaries to know exactly who he was. He boasts his name to the giant Kyklops and mocks him as he sails off victoriously with his flocks, leaving him blind. Odysseus also confidently claims that he is going to kill every suitor in the hall at the same time that he introduces himself as King.
When Odysseus fights in both of these scenes he does not hesitate to emotionally identify himself as a champion so that the loser will know who has beaten him, thereby gaining his glory on the battlefield. This theme of the glory of battle can be seen throughout this story, but is clearly shown in the way in which Odysseus reveals himself in these two particular scenes. The two scenes described above in which Odysseus reveals his identity to both Kyklops in book IX and the suitors in book XXII parallel each other in the element of self-revelation we see throughout the story of Odysseus.
Under careful analysis these two scenes seem to differ in the times that Odysseus chooses to reveal himself regarding the respective fights, and in the effects this self-revelation has on Odysseus. On the other hand, these same scenes contain strong similarities in the ways in which Odysseus’ adversaries respond to his identity, and in the portrayal of the theme concerning the glory of battle. Homer very clearly uses these self-revelation scenes to develop strength and confidence in the Odysseus character, while still presenting some interesting differences in such a seemingly similar pair of scenes.