Book Twenty-one Notes

The Odyssey: Book 21 “The Test of the Bow”
A foil character: a character whose qualities or actions serve to emphasize those of the
protagonist or some other character by providing a strong contrast with them
A foil is a secondary character who contrasts with a major character
Foil characters
 Poseidon vs Zeus
 Odysseus vs Eurylochus
 Odysseus' mother vs Penelope (mother dies of broken heart while Penelope holds out
hope for his return)
Characters Introduced:
 Antinous: a suitor of Penelope's
 Eurymachus: a suitor of Penelope's
 Telemachus: Odysseus' son
 Eumaeus: a servant in Odysseus' household
 Philoetius: a servant in Odysseus' household
 Eurycleia: an old female servant, still loyal to Odysseus
Back home in Ithaca
 Suitors have been in Ithaca while Odysseus has been away
 Odysseus is helped home by King Alcinous
 Athena warns him that his palace is overrun by suitors
 Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar
 Odysseus meets up with this son, Telemachus, and discuss how to get their family honor
 Penelope, doesn't know Odysseus is back, proposes an archery contest with her hand in
marriage as the prize
 They must shoot using his heavy bow
o they must bend and string it then send the arrow through 12 iron axe-helve
sockets (rings) in a line
o the lesser suitors couldn't even string the bow
 Odysseus gets two of his servants (Eumaeus and Philoetius)
o he is testing their loyalty
 they do not know it is him (dramatic irony- we the readers know but the
servants do not)
o to prove who he was he showed them a scar he got while boar hunting
o gets one servant to get him the bow (Eumaeus) and the other to lock the gate
(Philoetius) (trapping all the suitors in place).
the suitors don't want to give him a change (to show him up and humiliate the suitors)
the suitors are all trapped in a room (100 suitors)
o all these suitors vs. Odysseus, Telemachus, and Eumaeus
Odysseus has the bow in his hand and strung it and shot the arrow through each socket
Odysseus is intending to kill the suitors (verbal irony- in story he says they will have a
feast for the men)