A theme about the suitors of Odyssey’s wife Penelope is one of the most significant in Homer’s poem. It is important because the protagonist of the poem reveals his character vividly when striving to revenge the suitors. Odyssey’s revenge is aimed at justice based on moral values, traditional outlook of a Greek citizen, and religious creed. The theme of the suitors and the protagonist’s revenge are closely connected with fame of King of Ithaca whom Odyssey was before the Trojan War. Obviously, he cannot possess other feelings and intentions except hatred and revenge so that his actions are justified.
The situation with the suitors occurs when Odyssey leaves his wife and son Telemachus to take part in the Trojan War. As well as Odyssey does not come home soon after the war, Penelope gets in a position of a widow. She is a beautiful woman, thus, numerous unmarried men try to vie for her hand and propose their love. Homer calls all these men in one word – “the suitors.” Penelope feels depressed with a situation she gets in and instability of her social status without a full-fledged husband who can protect their house. Her son Telemachus is frustrated because of the suitors and his inability to help her mother. As he mentions, “My reluctant mother is plagued by suitor, sons of the leading men in this and other islands” (Homer 31). Apparently, both Penelope and Telemachus need protection not to allow the suitors occupy their property and power.
When Odysseus comes back home, his son describes him the situation they face, as there are nearly 108 suitors from different islands around Greece. The problem is that the suitors do not behave politely and adequately with Telemachus and her mother. They occupy their residence, eat, and drink the products belonged to Odyssey and his family. The suitors strive to make Penelope marry someone among them. Obviously, these men behave unfairly to their King and his wife. Seeking for the revenge is based on “elementary survival instinct” (Bakker 137). The suitors had to respect Odyssey’s family and protect it from enemies in favor of the King and brilliant warrior who saves their lives during the war. In contrast, they have the intention to take his home, wife, and power for themselves.
Another important argument that provides a reliable justification for Odyssey’s and Telemachus’ revenge is that the gods support their actions. As Athene states, “A shameful tale! Here’s a crying need for Odysseus, to manhandle these graceless suitors” (Homer 21). The goddess agrees that the suitors’ actions lack the grace, so, Odyssey should make them responsible for their disrespectful behavior. Typically for ancient epos, “the most pronounced acts of vengeance are played out in blood” (Johnsons 144). As a result, Odyssey, his son Telemachus, and a friend Philoetius committed retribution killing all the suitors and servants who helped them.
Odyssey’s revenge is justified, as it corresponds to the Greek world view and thoughtful moral code based on justice and retribution. A person should be merciful for his family, but fierce for the enemies. As well as the suitors appears to be the enemies of Odyssey’s family, he should protect it. Morality of Ancient Greece is strict enough for the most powerful individuals. If a person is the king, he should be able to confirm his status no matter what kind of actions are needed for this. Respect, loyalty, fame, and love are the positive outcomes of heroic exploits. The good is based on ability to achieve own goals and be faithful to the gods. Odyssey and his son Telemachus act in accordance with their moral values, will to survive, and intention to stay worthy for social positions they occupy.
- Bakker, Egbert J. The Meaning of Meat and the Structure of the Odyssey. Cambridge University Press, 2013. Print.
- Homer. Odyssey. London: Collector’s Library, 2011. Print.
- Johnson, Claudia Durst, and Vernon Elso Johnson. Understanding the Odyssey. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. Print.