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Book 23

Course Hero’s video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 23 of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.

The Odyssey | Book 23 | Summary

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Summary

The battle is over, and the scene shifts to Penelope, who has been hiding in her quarters. She still cannot believe that Odysseus has returned and that the suitors are all dead. Even upon seeing him with her own eyes, she seems uncertain. She tests him by seeing if he remembers their bed, which was carved from an olive tree that is rooted in the house. When she instructs her maid to move it, an infuriated Odysseus objects and explains why it cannot be moved. This reaction finally convinces Penelope that Odysseus is indeed home.

Even though they are finally reunited, Odysseus has one final task to complete. Tiresias had prophesied to him that, in order to truly live out a long life of peace, he must travel as far inland as a possible, away from the sea, to make a sacrifice to Poseidon.

Analysis

Many readers may wonder why Penelope is so cautious about believing that Odysseus is truly before her. But It only makes sense for her to test him. With so many disguises and gods about, she would be dim not to be careful. As the narrative has shown, Penelope is hardly foolish. She is shrewd and cautious throughout the epic. In a way, her skepticism shows real loyalty to Odysseus—she does not want to be tricked and therefore be unfaithful.

The fact that Odysseus must leave his now-peaceful home yet again demonstrates the power and fear that the gods hold over mortals. As much as Odysseus has missed his family, he cannot risk further angering Poseidon if he wants to settle into a long and happy life at home. His further, temporary absence is necessary in order to protect his family in the long run.

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