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Interruption In The Odyssey Essay

Book 11 of Homer’s The Odyssey continues Odysseus’s tale of how he came to arrive in Scheria, with him relating his voyage to the underworld. He makes the interesting choice of cutting his narrative choice halfway through his tale in order to incite a reaction from his Phaeacian audience. Odysseus makes this interruption because he is telling his tale not to relate what actually occurred in his travels, but because he needed help from the Phaeacians and used the story to obtain that help.

Odysseus abruptly interrupts his tale after he tells of the deceased princesses he met, and it is testament to his captivation of his audience that, “… ot a sound was heard in the whole length of the shadowy hall… ” (Homer). After the queen declares her admiration for Odysseus, King Alcinous states of Odysseus that, “… his passage home shall be the concern of the whole people, and my own in particular, since I am monarch here. ” It is unclear why he treats Odysseus so highly until he tells Odysseus soon after, “… not only is your speech a delight but you have sound judgement too, and you have told us the stories of your compatriots and your own grievous misadventures with all the artistry that a ballad-singer might display.

After this brief exchange, the king eagerly insists that Odysseus continue his story, and Odysseus abandons his feigned exhaustion, happy to comply. A number of observations can be made from this brief interlude in Odysseus’s narrative that hint to his ulterior motives. One observation that is glaringly obvious is the abrupt and irregular placing of Odysseus’s interruption to his narrative. He didn’t resolve what he was talking about, find a lull, or otherwise find a good place to pause.

The reason he did this is likely similar to the use of cliffhangers in other forms of storytelling; he deliberately left the audience wanting more, and he wanted something from the audience in return. Another observation that can be made is how enthralled the audience was in his tale, so much so that there was complete silence as he finished speaking. This was advantageous to Odysseus, as he needed to appeal to his audience in order to be able to obtain something from them. It is also apparent that Queen Arete in particular is captivated by Odysseus’s tale.

She tells her subjects not to urge him away so quickly, which is her way of indirectly asking him to stay and finish his story. The captivation demonstrated by both the queen and her subjects suggests the idea that Odysseus is no longer playing the role of a traveler recounting his woes, but rather of a storyteller that is reciting an epic piece of fiction. It is then the king’s turn to speak, and he suggests that Odysseus must remain in Scheria until the next day so that proper preparations for his departure may be made, as his passage home is now top priority for he and his subjects.

This is the prize that Odysseus has earned through his storytelling, and the one that he was likely seeking under the circumstances. Odysseus than expresses appreciation for this reward, stating that he would do much if only he may earn safe passage home. This all but confirms the idea that this is the recompense he was speaking. It is also of note that he included the detail that he would be sent safely and loaded with the Phaeacian’s splendid gifts. Now that he had the king captivated by his tale, he made an effort to coax as much reward as he could out of him, reflecting his sly nature.

The king then states why Odysseus is deserving of such attention: his speech is not only delightful, but he has recounted his tragic memories with all the skill of a ballad-singer. It is here revealed that the king is not rewarding Odysseus out of empathy for his woes, but out of appreciation for quality entertainment. At this point, he seems to care little whether or not Odysseus’s story is true or fiction as long as he gives a satisfying conclusion. The king then asks Odysseus to finish his story.

This further reinforces the idea that Odysseus is no longer being held as a tragic guest, but as an entertainer. If the king was really tactful cared about treating Odysseus well, he would have left him alone when he said he was tired rather than urging him to recount tragic and painful memories. It is notable that Odysseus complied to the king’s request right away. This further proves that his exhaustion was feigned in order to stop his story and get a reaction from his audience, rather than genuinely needing to rest.

King Alcinous, interestingly enough, requests Odysseus to recount his reunion with heroic comrades and more tragic content in gener ral, and Odysseus is conveniently able to deliver. This detail serves to reinforce the fact that Odysseus is telling fiction at this point. It is too unbelievable a coincidence that the next part of the tale would appeal to the king’s specific interests had this been purely non-fictional. Finally, it can be observed that Odysseus resumes his tale with uncharacteristic enthusiasm, as he builds excitement by telling the king that the next part of his story would be more tragic than what he’s already heard.

This is the mentality of somebody who is trying to sell a piece of fiction, not of somebody who is recounting painful memories of personal tragedies. This is a huge disconnect between Odysseus and his story on a personal level, which strengthens the idea that he is no longer telling the truth to his hosts. From these observations, it can be concluded that by this point in the story, Odysseus was no longer telling the truth so as to have his tale entertain his hosts.

He did this because he needed help from his hosts to go home, and he was able to obtain this by entertaining them with a captivating story. The Phaeacians seemed to not mind his possible lack of honesty, so this decision on Odysseus’s behalf may not be tinted with malice. He made his hosts happy and did what he had to in order to go home and make things right, so despite his deceitful methods, it is still easy to back Odysseus as a protagonist rather than dismiss him as a reproachable liar.

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