The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Odysseus lies awake and worries about fighting an entire crowd of suitors - and the crowds that will come to avenge their deaths. Athena reassures him and helps him fall asleep. Meanwhile, the queen lies awake and wishes for death: even death is better than the infidelity she fears will be forced upon her. Her crying rouses Odysseus, who asks Zeus for a good omen. Right away, Zeus sends a clap of thunder.
Athena can soothe Odysseus because she knows his future: the suitors will be defeated, the husband will come home. Her peaceful presence acts on him like a sudden faith in the future: here, she seems to serve as a metaphor for that faith rather than as a meddlesome god.
Themes
Fate, the Gods, and Free Will Theme Icon
Eurycleia instructs the maids to clean and decorate the house for the feast to be held during the archery contest. Odysseus ignores another insult from the goatherd and speaks briefly to the cowherd. An eagle flies by with a dove in its claws, and Amphinomus convinces the suitors to stop plotting against the prince and start feasting instead.
Amphinomus recognizes the omens predicting death and destruction. He cuts short the suitors' futile and impious planning in hopes of reducing their punishment, but it is too little too late.
Themes
Fate, the Gods, and Free Will Theme Icon
Piety, Customs, and Justice Theme Icon
Cunning, Disguise, and Self-Restraint Theme Icon
Athena wants to rouse Odysseus's anger so she inspires a suitor names Ctesippus to fling a hoof at him; Telemachus loudly chastises the suitor, but Odysseus remains calm. Another suitor urges Telemachus to convince Penelope to take another husband, and Telemachus refuses yet again. Athena makes the suitors break into irrational, hysterical laugher. The seer Theoclymenus points out dark omens: blood on the walls, ghosts at the doors, a mist that covers the sun. The suitors mock the seer and insult the king once again.
Athena continues to exacerbate the behavior of the suitors. Suddenly, they seem like marionettes throwing hard objects at her command; they themselves seem bewildered by their behavior. They're frightened by the morbid signs, but they keep mocking and insulting. Athena forces them to continue to commit their earlier offenses: she forces them to be the worst version of themselves.
Themes
Fate, the Gods, and Free Will Theme Icon
Piety, Customs, and Justice Theme Icon
Cunning, Disguise, and Self-Restraint Theme Icon