Thursday, March 18, 2010
Reading the Classics with Paul - The Odyssey Part 5
The domestic drama takes a few odd turns in this final portion of the text. I think I'm probably not alone in noticing how different the first third of the book is from the last two thirds. Gone is the adventure stories with fantastical beasts, gods and the afterlife (mostly. More accurately, gone are the fantastical beasts anyway and sparse are the gods and afterlife.) The conclusion of the story is about Odysseus sneaking back into his life to drive out the suitors. I won't be so unkind as to call it uneven. But I did miss the Cyclops, Hydra, witches, bags of wind and sirens. Now we have omens of birds of prey carrying doves, deceit, some awkward fumbling returns to family, and lots of violence. In spite of this, however, a lot did happen this week. I know. I say that every week and it's not always true.
We start with Odysseus being a bit of an ass again. Odysseus and Penelope are reunited in person, but Odysseus is still pretending to not be Odysseus. The servant girl notices his boar hunting scar when washing his feet (I wonder if this was an Adonis allusion.) Penelope had a dream with a talking bird who kills all the geese which, of course, means that Odysseus is returning to drive out the suitors (Last night I dreamed about the angel statues from the Blink episode of Doctor Who. What does this portend? Sometimes a talking eagle is just a talking eagle.) Penelope decides to hold a contest for the suitor who will marry her. Then there's a long passage about how the various characters have a rough night's sleep.
Although, as peculiar as I find Odysseus' behavior (maybe it's cultural. My point is, if I were in his position, I would say "Hey, everyone, I'm back!" and then call the cops on the suitors for trespassing. Maybe it didn't work like that in ancient Ithaca), I have to say that the suitors throughout have been really terrible. Now they're throwing cows hooves! I can kind of see why it's going down like it's going down.
Oh, and guess who wins the contest. And while Odysseus still has the bow and arrow and all of the suitors assembled, we get the action movie ending. They kill everyone, bring out the disloyal servants, make them clean up the carnage, then Telemachus hangs them. Somehow, Penelope sleeps through all of this. I guess because she had such a hard time getting to sleep the night before and this is way before coffee.
Like so many great men in history, Odysseus wanted for foresight in killing the sons of prominent families in the area. The singer goes and stands in the doorway and sings cheery songs so the people passing by will not suspect that it's the Ithaca Chainsaw Massacre inside. So, the Greeks had dark humor too, I guess.
There's the weird thing about the bed being made out of part of a tree. We get a flash into the suitors arriving in Hades (which I thought was a nice touch) and Agamemnon kind of does a little rap star style bragging "You think Penelope was bad?!!? That's nothing. You should have seen Clytemnestra!"
Odysseus has a touching reunion with his father. Much as Odysseus suspected, the families of the suitors decide to raise an army and hunt down Odysseus but, again, Athena intervenes (disguised as Mentor again. And not until after one guy gets a spear in the throat.) In a clear reflection of the public's short term memory (with skills like that, Athena could have her own talk show on a 24 hour news network), the families forget about the dead suitors and decide to make Odysseus king again instead. Everyone's happy and justice is served (mostly.) Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.
Thanks to all who read along. I hope you enjoyed this book as much as I have or more if possible.
Next up is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I highly recommend everyone join in on this book. I've already started it and it's wonderful. I also recommend you get a copy and start reading ASAP. It's a long one. I think we're going to read it in approximately 75 page chunks. As usual, we will have a week for everyone to secure a copy before we officially start reading. Next Thursday I will post a reading reminder and announce the official start of reading (our first post on the reading will be the following Thursday.) But I would encourage all of you to get a copy and start reading as soon as you can. I think you'll love it, but it's over 500 pages and miles to go before nightfall.