A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey

By Irene J. F. De Jong | Go to book overview

BOOK TWENTY-ONE

Book 21 continues the long fortieth day of the Odyssey (cf. Introduction to 20) and contains the bow-contest from the moment it is initiated by Penelope until it is won by Odysseus. A central role is played by the object of the bow (cf. the deictic τóδεin 92, 153 and τóδε in 349): after being elaborately introduced by the narrator, it is first handled by several members of the Odysseus-party, viz. Penelope (who fetches it from a storeroom), Eumaeus (who hands it over to the Suitors), and Telemachus (who would have strung it, had his father not signalled him not to), then comes into the hands of the Suitors, Leodes and Eurymachus (who try unsuccessfully to string it), until finally, again via the hands of Eumaeus, it ends up with its rightful owner Odysseus. Almost the entire book consists of retardations †, which postpone the climactic moment when Odysseus is given the bow which the narratees now know (since line 4) will be his revenge weapon. The actual stringing of the bow and shooting of an arrow through the twelve axes takes up only a few lines. Throughout this series of retardations the tension of the narratees is kept 'at full steam' through repeated *prolepses of the Suitors' death.

The contest episode is carefully structured:

-504-

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A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Glossary xi
  • Commentary 1
  • Book One 3
  • Book Two 44
  • Book Three 68
  • Book Four 89
  • Book Five 123
  • Book Six 149
  • Book Seven 170
  • Book Eight 190
  • Book Nine 221
  • Book Ten 250
  • Book Eleven 271
  • Book Twelve 296
  • Book Thirteen 313
  • Book Fourteen 340
  • Book Fifteen 362
  • Book Sixteen 385
  • Book Seventeen 407
  • Book Eighteen 437
  • Book Nineteen 458
  • Book Twenty 483
  • Book Twenty-One 504
  • Book Twenty-Two 524
  • Book Twenty-Three 545
  • Book Twenty-Four 565
  • Appendix A - The Fabula of the Odyssey 587
  • Appendix B - The Continuity of Time Principle and the 'Interlace' Technique 589
  • Appendix C - The Piecemeal Distribution of the Nostoi of Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Menelaus 591
  • Appendix D - 'storm' Scenes in the Odyssey 594
  • Appendix E - The Recurrent Elements of Odysseus' Lying Tales 596
  • Appendix F - The 'storeroom' Type-Scene 598
  • Bibliography 599
  • Index of Greek Words 622
  • Index of Subjects 624
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