The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, walks to the swineherd's house. Eumaeus invites Odysseus in to eat and drink and tell his story. Odysseus thanks the swineherd for his hospitality, and Eumaeus answers that Zeus decrees that everyone be kind to beggars and strangers. He serves Odysseus two pigs, barley, and wine. He complains that the suitors eat all the best hogs without fearing the revenge of the gods, who honor the just acts of men. The suitors must think Odysseus is dead, says the swineherd, because they shamelessly deplete what was once the richest realm in this part of the world.
We see right away that Eumaeus lives piously and respects custom. He has also remained fiercely loyal to Odysseus, and has therefore grown to hate the suitors. He is amazed that the suitors can disregard the rules of honor so blithely – yet he continues to believe in the gods, and sees the suitors as foolish not to fear retribution. In this world, it seems that people always get their just deserts.
Themes
Piety, Customs, and Justice Theme Icon
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Odysseus-the-beggar tells Eumaeus that he was born in Crete, the unlawful son of a rich man and a concubine. As a young man he loved adventure and war but not home and family: he won honor in battle and took a lot of treasure from foreign lands. Then he led a fleet in the Trojan war, battled for ten years and came home; but only a month after homecoming he set out again for Egypt to seek more treasure. However, his men killed and plundered in the Egyptian farms against his will, and an army from the Egyptian city came and killed or enslaved the whole crew, though he escaped by begging the king for mercy. He stayed in Egypt for seven years and collected a great fortune.
In this new identity story, Odysseus implies that he, too, has chosen glory over family; his downfall, also, had been an immoderate quest for treasure, fame, and glory. The story about Egypt corresponds in most details to Odysseus's encounter with the Cicones. In reality, Odysseus and part of his crew manage to escape, but the older, wiser Odysseus revises the story: in this version, he must humble himself to survive. Odysseus has come to doubt glory-seeking and respect humility.
Themes
Piety, Customs, and Justice Theme Icon
Cunning, Disguise, and Self-Restraint Theme Icon
Glory and Honor Theme Icon
Odysseus-the-beggar left Egypt with a Phoenician con man, who convinced him to go to Libya. But Zeus struck their ship with lightning and he alone survived. He floated on the mast of the ship for nine days until he reached Thesprotia, where king Phidon treated him kindly and told him that Odysseus was sailing home with great treasure. Phidon sent him to the city of Dulichion by ship, but the crew of the ship dressed him in rags and tied him up on an Ithaca beach. Finally, he escaped and stumbled across Eumaeus's home. Here Odysseus-the-beggar finishes his invented tale.
The remainder of the story corresponds in many details to Odysseus's voyage: Zeus's punishment, nine days of drifting, a strange king's kindness. Odysseus was not the one to provoke Zeus's anger, so he does not take the blame in this version of the story. Such an identity story, like disguise and self-restraint, has elements of both truth and untruth. A lie, in this world, does not only mask the truth – it has a certain truth of its own.
Themes
Cunning, Disguise, and Self-Restraint Theme Icon
Odysseus decides to test Eumaeus's generosity: he describes a freezing, snowy night during the Trojan War when he complained to Odysseus that he was about to die from the cold. Odysseus then sent one of his own men on a made-up mission so that he, the beggar, could take his cloak. Eumaeus praises the story and lends Odysseus-the-beggar a cloak of his own.
Odysseus has no particular reason for asking for the cloak in such a roundabout way: Eumaeus has already proved his kindness and hospitality. Odysseus seems to enjoy lying and disguise the way he once enjoyed glory. Further, he makes up a story that doesn't only disguise who he is but actually includes himself treating his made-up self in a noble and honorable way. That's a lot of cunning and, to use a word the Greeks wouldn't, chutzpah.
Themes
Cunning, Disguise, and Self-Restraint Theme Icon
Glory and Honor Theme Icon
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