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Boston College
Honors Program
HONR 1101

Emily McClure The Odyssey Books 5-18 Notes on Class 9/23 In these notes, I’d really like to focus a lot on the character of Eumaios such as we did in class. When Odysseus returns to Ithaka and goes to visit and stay in the swineherd’s hut, a lot of the attention is focused on Odysseus. Odysseus comes back in disguise and tries to deceive Eumaios and conceal his true identity (at least to begin with), but, as we talked about in class, I think that if you read and interpret the story carefully it seems that Eumaios knows exactly the type of game that his guest is playing. Eumaios can play the “poker game” just as well as the master tactician, Odysseus. There are small hints that demonstrate this throughout their time spent together before Odysseus reveals his identity. Eumaios first demonstrates his wits and tactful and careful throughout the conversation when he asks his guest to tell him who he is and his story. It is interesting to watch the progression of the conversation between two masterful tacticians who seem to be playing the same game with one another. It begins when Odysseus questions about the swineherd’s king, saying that he may know him or know news of him. Eumaios deftly responds by clarifying that he knows many beggars will give false news in expectation of gifts or prizes: “‘Wandering men tell lies for a night’s lodging, / for fresh clothing; truth doesn’t interest them… I suppose you, too, can work your story up / at a moment’s notice, given a shirt or cloak’” (XIV, 151-160). With this, Eumaios is able to set the tone by telling his guest that nobody will be fooling him with false news. He then asks Odysseus for his story. This impresses Odysseus, and then he tells a false story of a made-up identity, also telling tales of Odysseus and his expectations of his return. In reply, Eumaios denies his guest’s story about Odysseu
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