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How important is Odysseus disguise as a beggar to the success of The Odyssey?

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Introduction

How important is Odysseus' disguise as a beggar to the success of The Odyssey? Odysseus is disguised as a beggar by the goddess Athena, who helps him plot his revenge against the suitors who are courting his wife. From the vantage point of a beggar in his own court, Odysseus is able to assess who remains loyal to him, who the suitors are, their habits, and he is able to create disagreements amongst them. The information he collects allows him to formulate a plan for revenge. It also adds an element of surprise, so they don't recognize him and kill him first. It is undoubtedly important to the success of the epic to an extent seeing as without his disguise Odysseus' homecoming would not have been as impressive as it is now; the delay he disguise provides to the plot increasing the anticipation for Odysseus' true return. He doesn't disguise himself, Athena does it for him, and he conceals his identity at her urging as well. In this way, the creation of his disguise also displays the wisdom of Athene as it is she who disguises Odysseus into a beggar and leads him to the swineherd and plots and plans the fall of the suitors in Odysseus' house. ...read more.

Middle

They treat him as extremely inferior in his position, thus provoking Odysseus into feeling sheer hatred towards them that will ultimately spur him on to murderously kill first Antinous then the entire group of inhospitable suitors. Although Athene also aids in provoking Odysseus by making the suitors insult him even more at various points, his disguise is vital simply as it is his way of observing the suitors before putting them all to a gruesome death. In addition, his disguise also heightens the suspense and emotion of Telemachus and Eurycleia's recognition, as well Penelope's at the very end. The way Telemachus is so delighted to see his father also increases pathos in a way, seeing as the reader knows that the worst is not yet over and Odysseus will not be able to reveal himself until he avenges the suitors' inhospitality. With Eurycleia's recognition due to the scar Odysseus received from a boar's tusk during childhood, Homer is able to digress from the plot by recounting the story of how he received the scar, therefore providing a parenthesis to give the reader a break from the plot. She is ecstatic, and her cheerfulness would increase the reader's optimism and eagerness for Odysseus' true return. The way he also abruptly tells her to stay quiet shows the importance of his disguise; it is vital Odysseus' disguise is not revealed seeing as his plan is half in motion, and ruining it now by exposing himself would undoubtedly have disastrous consequences. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, Odysseus foolishly divulges his identity in a bragging moment of pride. Ultimately, Odysseus learns to practice disguise and understands through his own experience that only through prudence and humility regarding his identity will he most likely defeat the suitors. An example of this is during his fight with the beggar Iros; Odysseus could have easily killed the beggar in an instant due to his heroic strength, but instead holds back this strength and allows him to live, knowing that the suitors would be suspicious if he displayed too much power. In this sense, his disguise is able to portray the life lessons Odysseus has learn on his adventures, showing his increase in maturity, wisdom and self-control. In conclusion, Odysseus' disguise is vital for the success of the Odyssey; it provides delay thus creates dramatic tension, allows him to decide who is or has remained loyal, intensifies the emotional recognition scenes, helps him recognise the suitors' bad habits and traits as well as allows Odysseus to display his epithets of being cunning and enduring. His disguise gives him time to formulate his plan as well as time to observe the people in his palace in order to be sure of his judgements and gives Athene a chance to provoke Odysseus so that he is fuming and aggravated enough to go through with the massacre of the suitors. ...read more.

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