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Barron's Booknotes-The Odyssey by Homer

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BOOK 2: A HERO'S SON AWAKENS

Book 2 takes place in Ithaka. Homer signals that a new day has begun by referring to the dawn. Like the sea, the seasons, and other forces of nature, she is one of the immortals, complete with "fingers of pink light." Without alarm clocks or electricity, people in 750 B.C. would have been attuned to dawn's chasing away the darkness each morning.

There's much detail about the family of old Aigyptos. People are almost always identified in terms of their families, and Homer doesn't mind interrupting his narrative to fill us in on a new character's background.

Antinoos tells about Penelope's trick. She said she would choose one of the suitors to marry when she finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law. But every night she unraveled that day's weaving.



At the assembly, Antinoos blames Penelope for the suitors' bad behavior. If Telemakhos wants to restore order to his house, he should send his mother back to her father's house and make her choose a new husband. Telemakhos' loyalty to his mother shows in his refusal.

When Telemakhos begs Zeus for a slaughter of the suitors, Zeus sends an omen instead: two eagles drop on the suitors, "wielding their talons, tearing cheeks and throats." The eagle, a bird of prey, is considered kingly. This is the first of many omens that Odysseus will return and have justice. The suitors don't notice the omen, being so arrogant that they're blind to all warnings.

When this book ends, Telemakhos has obeyed Athena's two orders-to hold an assembly, and to set sail into the world.

NOTE: Notice how he handles the mockery of Antinoos back at his home after the assembly. Antinoos would love to make Telemakhos lose his self-control. Keep in mind that Telemakhos is about twenty years old and the suitors are much older. What do you think would happen here if Telemakhos threw a punch, instead of calmly withdrawing his hand from Antinoos' hand?

Telemakhos and his crew, accompanied by Athena (still disguised), sail all night and arrive the next morning at the home of Nestor in Pylos.

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Barron's Booknotes-The Odyssey by Homer
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