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Metaphor in The Odyssey

Metaphor Examples in The Odyssey:

Book V

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"for the clothes Calypso had given him weighed him down..."   (Book V)

Notice how even after Odysseus leaves Calypso’s island, she hinders his progress towards home. Homer uses this metaphor to show how the power of the gods can reach anyone regardless of whether or not the god is physically present. Considering the time this was written, we can surmise this to be a reflection of the cultural values of respecting the unseen gods.

"poplars and willows that shed their fruit untimely..."   (Book X)

Since poplars and willows are commonly found around graves, this is a reference to death as an untimely occurrence as well as a landmark for Odysseus on his journey.

"a hard thing for the living to see..."   (Book XI)

Anticlea means this both literally and figuratively. It's difficult to reach Erebus, because it's so far from the mainland, but it's also difficult for Odysseus to see it, as a man whom we're led to believe has many years ahead of him.

"come here with the victims..."   (Book XVII)

This may be a double entendre, or a phrase with double meanings: Telemachus may have in mind both the animals being sacrificed and the suitors, of whom he intends to make another kind of "sacrifice" as he and Odysseus take revenge upon them for their insolence.

"the most heaven-taught minstrel..."   (Book XVII)

In ancient Greek culture, bards (poets) and minstrels were thought to be inspired by the Graces and the Muses and were honored for their talents. Comparing Odysseus to a bard elevates him to this status and gives backhanded praise to Homer for being able to write a story about people who tell such good stories.

"by one of the bearing-posts..."   (Book XVII)

Interestingly, this isn't the first time Penelope has been mentioned as being by a "bearing-post" of the house. As before, this can be taken as a sign that she needs to feel some kind of support in this tense atmosphere. It's also foreshadowing of a scene later in the poem.

"I grieving because the eagle had killed my geese..."   (Book XIX)

If the geese in Penelope's dream represent the suitors, as Odysseus claims, then her feelings in the dream suggest that she would accept a suitor to remarry. This is not surprising that after years of doubting whether Odysseus was alive and after being pursued by this large group of men, Penelope would start to feel attracted to at least some of those who want her hand.

"over all the land..."   (Book XX)

These sudden changes are not meant to be taken literally but rather metaphorically. It's unclear whether Theoclymenus sees these things because he's a seer and can foretell the future or because the suitors are behaving so strangely that it's as if the world is shrouded in darkness.

"maddened by the gadfly..."   (Book XXII)

A gadfly is a species of fly well-known for biting and goading cattle. In modern parlance, it also refers to an irritating or difficult person, so that if we liken the suitors to the cattle, Odysseus becomes the gadfly who, at least from their perspective, torments them unfairly.

"the straps had become unsewn..."   (Book XXII)

If Eumaeus was trying to bolster Odysseus' spirits by mentioning his father, Homer is trying to undermine their courage by suggesting that even the strong grow weak and feeble. This fight will not be as easy as Odysseus hoped, and perhaps not as righteous.

"kicked the stool with his feet..."   (Book XXII)

Just as Antinous kicks a table as he dies, Eurymachus kicks a stool. The poet may be using this image to create realism. When mortally wounded men are in their death throes, they often kick reflexively, and that kick is their last movement. Hence the phrase "kick the bucket."

"and the vultures shall devour you..."   (Book XXII)

That is to say, that Odysseus' body will go unburied and will instead be left out in the elements, where the vultures can eat him. Vultures have been mentioned a number of times already, most notably in the story of Prometheus, so that this line inadvertently aligns Odysseus with a hero.

"Eperitus..."   (Book XXIV)

Continuing this elaborate metaphorical framework, Odysseus calls himself *Eperitus, *which means both *selected *(or, better, singled-out) and someone who is fought over, a man whose life is one of struggle. Both meanings apply to Odysseus during his voyage home, in which he has been singled-out by the gods for special attention and been forced to struggle for his life.

"Polypemon..."   (Book XXIV)

Polypemon means full of sorrow, and Laertes has just demonstrated that he is, metaphorically, the son of sorrow or grief. This kind of word play is extremely clever and difficult, and couldn't be achieved on the spot by any of the other character in The Odyssey. It's only Odysseus, with his great facility of language, who can lie so intricately.

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