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Book XI the the Odyssey shows Odysseus’ symbolic death and rebirth: a journey right into the psyche the Odysseus in which that learns both about his past and also future and comes to terms through his responsibilities as a leader, a father, a husband, and also a hero. Perhaps many importantly Odysseus learns indigenous the shades that his previous the wisdom he requirements to return home safely — to loss his very own selfish desires and also those that his enemies. This lower is a personal one for Odysseus; though his crew joins him, they perform not make it home, and also they it seems to be ~ to represent an element of Odysseus’ psyche the he can not control — free radicals the will at some point have to be encountered in one means or another. When Odysseus meets many figures native his past and his culture, there space a couple of that hold an essential lessons because that Odysseus.
Odysseus learns, too, of the suitors ransacking his house and also courting Penelope; he must make castle atone in blood — “in open combat or by stealth” — for your perfidy. Odysseus will cunningly rental the latter before enabling the suitors to recognize that the mr of the manor has returned, uneven the unfortunately Agamemnon. Finally, Odysseus learns the his go back to Ithaca will not mean the finish of his wanderings: he will have another quest that will take that again indigenous his home.
After discovering of his future, Odysseus speaks through the shade of his mommy Anticlea. Native his mother, Odysseus to learn of Penelope’s faithfulness, Telemachus’ duties as a magistrate (she died before Telemachus own resulting age), and also Laertes’, Odysseus’s father, retirement come the country, unable to confront the seeming autumn of the residence of Odysseus. Anticlea herself might not endure Odysseus’ lack precipitated her at an early stage death. She words include to Odysseus’ pain and also his urgency come return house to set his floor in order. Yet, in his despair, Anticlea cautions him that he should “crave sunshine soon” — yes, all will die, however now is not Odysseus’ time. He should “Note all things strange / seen here, come tell your lady in after ~ days.”<2>
While Odysseus meets many more shades — Heracles, Agamemnon, Sisyphus, Ajax, amongst others — one in certain strikes me as most important: Achilles. The best Greek warrior i do not care the mouthpiece the the Odyssey in his quick interaction v Odysseus. The hero that the Trojan battle asks Odysseus what the is doing where “the dimwitted dead room camped forever, / the after pictures of used-up men.”<3> The dead, indeed, are mute until Odysseus gives them blood; Achilles is no exception, yet the hero’s speech is more of one admonishment, an echo the Anticlea’s carpe diem. Odysseus’ answer to Achilles is flippant: you were the greatest, so fortunate in life the surely death must not pain friend so much. Achilles speaks what might be the motto of the Odyssey:
Let me hear no smooth talkof death from you, Odysseus, irradiate of councils.Better, ns say, to rest sod as a farm handfor some negative country man, or steel rations,than lord it over all the worn down dead.
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Indeed, Achilles learn a wisdom in fatality that his rage blinded him come in life: naught matters but life, no the petty distinctions of jealous men, no the the reckless fury of a wronged friend. It’s better to be alive and also in bondage than just a mute shade. While Odysseus does not react come this decided explicitly, it does become a component of his journey to survive and also overcome. Odysseus, unequal Achilles, is a survivor, and in bespeak to for family and also country to remain significant, one must live in bespeak to maintain them. Death brings only silence, a grim watch of a Greek afterlife; no Elysian fields here.
While Odysseus hears much in the underworld, only the remaining books of the Odyssey highlight what the learns, if anything. How is Odysseus reborn together a hero? What ultimately does he bring home to his community and also to himself?