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Book 2

Course Hero’s video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 2 of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.

The Odyssey | Book 2 | Summary

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Summary

Telemachus gathers an assembly of Achaeans to make his case for removing the suitors from his home. The suitors are not behaving according to custom. Rather than seeking permission from her father to marry Penelope, they stay at Odysseus's home, consuming his wine, sheep, and goats. Helped by Athena, who has applied her powers to make him appear intimidating and confident, Telemachus threatens them with vengeance from the gods for their behavior. One of the suitors, Antinous, says that Penelope has led them on, promising that she would choose a husband from among them once she finishes the shroud she is weaving for Laertes. But they now know from one of Penelope's maids that by night Penelope undoes that day's weaving, indefinitely postponing the decision.

Just after the angry Telemachus expresses his hope that the suitors will be punished, Zeus sends an omen of two eagles. The soothsayer Halitherses proclaims that this omen prophesies the death of the suitors. The suitors scoff at these words. Telemachus says he is finished trying to reason with the suitors, and the suitors refuse to leave. On Athena's instructions, he asks for a ship and crew in order to take to the sea to seek information on the whereabouts of Odysseus.

Under disguise once again, Athena reassures Telemachus that he will find success by searching for Odysseus. Athena then disguises herself as Telemachus and gathers a crew and ship. She also sends the ship a strong wind that will aid their navigation. The old nurse, Eurycleia, implores Telemachus not to go to sea as his father had done, but he reassures her by sharing his sense that a god is assisting him.

Analysis

Book 2 finds Telemachus confronted with a growing fear that he is not as courageous and smart as his father, Odysseus. However, he comes from not one but two clever parents—Penelope's shroud-weaving trick shows that she is every bit as shrewd as her husband. As Telemachus confronts the suitors, he demonstrates how he is growing into his new role as man. He also remains calm in the face of the suitors' insulting his mother, responding with logic rather than heated emotion. He is bolstered in all this by the support of Athena. Indeed, when the ship departs, she assumed "the pilot's seat"—clear indication that she is setting the young man's course—and "sent them a stiff following wind"—showing that she powers him on his journey.

Telemachus also shows his concern for his mother's state of mind. He instructs the nurse, Eurycleia, not to tell Penelope of his departure lest she worry and "mar her lovely face with tears."

The eagle symbol appears for the first time and in a powerful way. Halitherses, an Ithacan loyal to Odysseus, reveals the meaning, which foreshadows the epic's end and the suitors' destruction. Augurs like Halitherses were vital links that connected the gods to mortals, explaining the fate that awaited humans. To the Greeks, the gods set their destiny; mortals' lot was to make the choices they face, await the unfolding of that destiny, and accept responsibility for their actions.

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