The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A rude beggar named Arnaeus (Irus for short) wanders into the palace. He insults Odysseus-the-beggar when they meet on the grounds, and Antinous decides to pit them against each other so that the suitors can enjoy the fight; the prize is sausage and a seat at the suitors' table. Odysseus-the-beggar pulls up his rags to reveal a powerful-looking body, and Irus is filled with fear. Odysseus decides to hurt him only slightly; he punches Irus on the neck and flings him outside. The suitors laugh and invite the stranger to eat at their table.
Odysseus agrees to fight the beggar that insulted him not out of anger but out of shrewdness. We see that Odysseus is in control of his emotions, because he carefully chooses the degree of violence to inflict on the man: he does not let his anger run wild despite Irus's insults. Even when his actions (violence) correspond to his emotions (anger), he still maintains a prudent separation between the two.
Themes
Cunning, Disguise, and Self-Restraint Theme Icon
Glory and Honor Theme Icon
The suitor Amphinomus is especially kind to Odysseus-the-beggar. As they talk, Odysseus mentions his own past violence and error, advises him to live lawfully, and hints at the suitors' impending deaths. Amphinomus feels very ill at ease, but the narrator notes that there is nothing to be done – he is fated to die on Telemachus's spear.
Odysseus takes pity on Amphinomus, so he tries to prevent his death by hinting that he should flee the palace as soon as possible – to break his allegiance to the group of suitors that he must defeat. But, while Amphinomus feels anxious, he does not leave—is that his free will to stay, or because he is fated to die?
Themes
Fate, the Gods, and Free Will Theme Icon
Piety, Customs, and Justice Theme Icon
Athena inspires Penelope to come down and speak to the suitors. The queen tells the suitors that if they hope to win her hand they should give her gifts, as is customary. Odysseus is pleased at this clever trick. The suitors send their servants to bring fine treasures and begin to dance and sing.
Though Penelope does not know about Odysseus's plan, her cunning helps to give the suitors a false sense of security, because her announcement gives them the impression that she will soon choose a husband.
Themes
Piety, Customs, and Justice Theme Icon
Cunning, Disguise, and Self-Restraint Theme Icon
Athena wants to rile Odysseus as much as possible, so she inspires Eurymachus to mock him once more, but Odysseus remains calm and predicts the suitors' deaths. Eurymachus throws a stool at Odysseus-the-beggar but the stool hits a servant instead. Telemachus scolds the suitors and sends them all to bed.
Though the suitors are by nature haughty and rude, Athena seems to force them to commit greater and greater offenses so that Odysseus will not spare them when the fated battle begins. Odysseus continues to show self-restraint.
Themes
Fate, the Gods, and Free Will Theme Icon
Piety, Customs, and Justice Theme Icon
Cunning, Disguise, and Self-Restraint Theme Icon
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