The Odyssey | Study Guide

Homer

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Books 15–16

Course Hero’s video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Books 15–16 of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.

The Odyssey | Books 15–16 | Summary

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Summary

Book 15

In Book 15 the narrative shifts back to Telemachus, as Athena goes to him and advises him to return home to Ithaca. She also warns him about the suitors' plot to murder him and offers a strategy to avoid their ambush. Telemachus and Pisistratus prepare to leave, and Telemachus notices an omen of good luck: an eagle clutching a goose in its talons. He sets sail for Ithaca.

Book 16

Back on Ithaca Odysseus gives Eumaeus one more test of loyalty by telling him that he plans to beg for help at the palace. Eumaeus advises him to stay put until Telemachus returns, due the unpredictable behavior of the suitors. Odysseus accepts his advice and asks Eumaeus to tell him about his life. Eumaeus explains the he had been born into royalty but was kidnapped and forced to become a servant.

Telemachus finally arrives home, avoiding the suitors with Athena's guidance. She also directs him to Eumaeus's home. Athena alters Odysseus's appearance from a beggar back into a younger version of himself. When Telemachus sees this transformation, he is shocked, taking him for a god. Odysseus reveals that he is Telemachus's father, and the two conspire to get rid of the suitors. Athena turns Odysseus back into a beggar once again, so that only Telemachus will know his true identity. Back at the palace, the suitors discuss their plot to kill Telemachus. Amphinomus tells the others they should be patient and wait for the gods to reveal their plans before they make a move. The other suitors agree to hold off.

Analysis

Even though Odysseus and Telemachus are both courageous and cunning, they need Athena's assistance, especially as they near their home and face mortal danger from the suitors. Odysseus is certainly showing the caution that Agamemnon advised when they spoke in the Land of the Dead. His testing of Eumaeus signals how he will act with others in Ithaca. He does reveal himself to his noble son, a signal that Telemachus is a worthy adult now and that Odysseus will need some help.

Eumaeus's story of his life shows how fate can shape a life in this world. Eumaeus's loss of status highlights the fact that privilege can be taken away without notice or justification.

That Telemachus is willing to offer his father (disguised as a beggar) food and shelter shows that he has learned the importance of hospitality on his journey.

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