Friday, November 14, 2008

The Odyssey

This years schoolwork assigned me the reading of the book the Odyssey, by Homer. Here is my review of it:

The background information: Ulysses leaves his wife Penelope and their infant son, Telemachus, in Ithaca, and journeys to Troy. His men are lost after a series of misfortunes and he alone remains. The goddess Minerva has made him her pet, and she has managed to preserve him. Ulysses is being held captive by a beautiful goddess, who wishes to make him immortal. Minerva has just convinced her father, Jove, to let him be released, and has managed to get him started on the way home.
He has been gone for twenty years when the story opens. Here we see their son a young man, and Penelope, the grieved wife, convinced of her widowhood. Ulysses estate is being squandered by a group of young men. These young men are in the "prime of life," sons of prominent people in the city. They are trying to convince Penelope to marry one of them, and are plotting to kill Telemachus and divide the estate amongst themselves.
Penelope has succeeded in fooling them for several years, but will not say whether she will marry one of them or not. In the meantime, the men are eating the best cattle, drinking up all the wine, and making a general havoc of the estate.
Minerva comes to Telemachus, and convinces him that he must go and search for news of his father. So Telemachus leaves the scene for a short time.
Through many trials and things, Ulysses arrives home again, but he is disguised (by Minerva) to appear as a poor old beggar. He is received by his faithful swineherd who rambles on about the sad misfortunes that befell him after his dear master, Ulysses, left. In the middle of their conversation, in which Ulysses declares he shall tell the truth of his history and proceeds with a dreadful lie, Telemachus enters, just returned from his journey. He has learned enough to expect that Ulysses is alive, but in captivity.
When the swineherd leaves the room, Ulysses reveals who he is to his son, and the two plot about their revenge on Penelope's suitors.
The long and short of it is, Ulysses and his son gather a few faithful servants, and sneak into the house where all the suitors are feasting. They kill all of the suitors, and succeed in convincing Penelope that Ulysses is, in fact, Ulysses.
The problem now, however, is that the suitor's parents are all mad that their sons were suddenly wiped out of existence. They wage war against Ulysses. Minerva and Jove make plans to have the war go on for a few hours, so that some, but not all of the suitor's parents are killed. The war ends with Ulysses making peace with them, and thus the book ends.

This book was hard to read in that the noble characters were not so noble. Ulysses is hard and bitter of heart towards the suitors, and sleeps with any number of women. You are left wondering if he is really great and strong, or if Minerva is the strong one who keeps helping him out because he is too weak. When in disguise, he tells people he is going to tell them the truth, and rambles on in a fearsome lie, in which, he has always met Ulysses and finds him to be the greatest man on earth.
Penelope is sly and deceitful, yet in, comparison to her husband, is a nicer character.
The gods and goddesses are stupid and confusing, always changing shape, and acting very immorally. Minerva is convinced Ulysses heart needs to be hardened considerably more against the suitors, until you are quite annoyed with her.
Telemachus and two of his friends, I think, are in all the best of all the people, in that, they merely followed Ulysses around and helped him with his scheme. They were not exactly plotters themselves.

The hopeless attitude of the story makes one weary and at last, when the story is done, you feel quite like throwing the book out the window; the gruesome descriptions of the hacking off of noses and thrusting through with spears of the battle against the suitors, and the seemingly total normality of seeing and smelling blood that Ulysses has is ugly.
I would advise avoiding the reading of this book unless you have to.