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Boston College
Honors Program
HONR 1101

Emily McClure The Odyssey Books 19-24 When Odysseus finally arrives home and sees his wife, Penelope, for the first time, he approaches her no differently than he has with anyone else in the poem. He converses with her in a way that seems like a “poker game”, similar to how he did this with Eumaios and Telemakhos earlier. However, it turns out that Penelope plays this game arguably better than Odysseus does. The dynamic is entertaining, but at first I wondered why this whole game was necessary. Reading further, I realized that Penelope needed proof that this was truly her husband, although it is hinted that she suspects that the stranger is Odysseus much earlier than she lets on. I think that the first scene where Penelope considers that this stranger may be Odysseus is after Eurykleia bathes his feet. When Odysseus is sitting there as the old nurse goes to fetch more water, Penelope asks him to interpret her dream in which Odysseus tells her that he will kill all the suitors soon, like an eagle killing geese. The dream is not very complex and doesn’t really need much interpretation, so it seems as if Penelope is trying to provoke a reaction from the stranger and see what he says to this. It is as if she already knows what his answer will be but wants to hear it for herself. When he replies that surely it will come true, she brushes the thought aside and offers that it is probably just a fantasy. She says, “ ‘I doubt that it came by horn, my fearful dream− / too good to be true…’” (Book XIX, 658-659).Again, it seems as though she wants to see if he will argue or prove that it will come true. This is a very wily and discrete tactic that not even the master tactician, Odysseus, picks up on because he answers her affirmatively saying, “‘he’ll [Odysseus] be here long before / one of these lads can stretch or string that bow / or shoot to thread the iron!’” (679-681). Seemingly satisfied with his answer, she then goes to bed. I think at this point she suspects strongly or is at least very hopeful that the stranger is Odysseus. The next morning, she brings out Odysseus’bow and arrow for the suitors to try. I think this also a test to see if what the “stranger” sai
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