The Odyssey - Book 22 - Slaughter
- Literature vs. "real
- The severity of the slaughter provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the differences and connections between literature and real life. Here's what one commentator wrote:
- "Nothing could be more instructive about the difference between literature and 'real' life than this justice. Located within the world of the Odyssey as we are, we see Antinous's death as just for all sorts of reasons.
All these are of course instances of 'poetic justice' rather than jurisprudence. With the central justification for Antinous's death, however, we may seem to be on ground which is more 'real.' His conduct toward Telemachus and Odysseus has been outrageous, and I think most of us feel that he deserves what he gets in something more than a literary way. Nevertheless, in 'real life' we neither believe in retributive justice, nor do we like to see it performed personally by the injured party. If we find the Odyssey's justice satisfying, it will be because we are temporarily located in the Odyssey's world and not in our own. The premises of the Odyssey are not by any means the ones we would choose, but they hang together
. In the Odyssey, a crime is essentially an act or an attitude to which vengeance is violently desired, in fact, and felt to be so appropriate that gods too are thought of as sharing the feelings which are aroused. This being the conception, we must not object if, in this climactic book of the poem, Odysseus and Telemachus wreak their sense of outrage upon their tormentors to the full.
I am sure that this is the only way to understand the poem.
In the first place, let us note that Odysseus's vengeance is not a sudden outburst of anger.
What might appear at first cruel and cold-blooded calculation is revealed to be in fact the emotional essence of Homeric justice.
Studied too is the formal indictment of the suitors.
The suitors feel guilty, for this is justice which we are witnessing, as well as revenge, and the suitors themselves know that they are in the wrong.
The suitors admit their guilt." (Dimock, 295-296)
- You can elaborate, agree, disagree, or enter into a discussion on these points in any way you choose, but you can see that "violence in the media" is not a new issue. Dimock makes a number of points: What makes violence within Homer's fictional world different than real-life violence? Is there a difference in media violence that is carefully built into a whole fictional world as it is here and media violence that is merely gratuitously injected for crowd appeal? What is the role of carefully-drawn violence in a work of fiction like here? What effect does it have on us the audience here? [Discuss Ody Bk22 Q01]
- Why does Odysseus kill Leodes (325) but spare the poet Phemius and the herald Medon (360-400)?
- You can observe Odysseus's own view of the reasons for the slaughter when he quiets nurse Eurycleia's triumph. See lines 430-445.He does not see what he has done as like the killing by a lion. What he sees as the crime of the suitors is that "they'd
no regard (respect or honor) for any man on
earth--good or bad--who chanced to come their
way." Tieskon (tĪeskon ), from (tĪv ), means to
pay honor to a person. This is what Odysseus
holds as a supreme value. Can you recall how he acts
upon this value in the Odyssey? [Discuss Ody Bk22 Q02]