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					Omens and Symbolism in The
                   Odyssey
                                   Dark Clouds
   Odysseus takes the sight of dark storm clouds to indicate his
    doom, believing that he is hated by the Gods.

   “…such clouds are these, with which Zeus is cramming the
    wide sky and has staggered the sea, and stormblasts of wind
    from every direction are crowding in. My sheer destruction is
    certain” Book V, Line 303
                                                           Bird Omens
   There are various examples of                             This omen is interpreted by
    omens that appear to the                                   Halitherses to mean that
    characters in the form of a bird                           Odysseus will soon return home
    attacking or preying on a lesser                           and destroy the suitors when
                                                               they least suspect it, but
    bird.                                                      Eurymachos mocks him, saying
        The first of these is during the assembly of the
    
        suitors and Telemachos, in which “for his sake
                                                               that not all birds have meaning,
        Zeus of the wide brows sent forth two eagles,          despite the entire assembly’s
        soaring high from the peak of a mountain.              “astonishment” due to the birds
        These for a little while sailed on the stream of
        the wind together, wing and wing, close
        together, wings spread wide. But when they were
        over the middle of the vociferous assembly they
        turned on each other suddenly in a thick
        shudder of wings and swooped over the heads of
        all, with eyes glaring and deadly, and tore each
        other by the neck and cheek with their talons,
        then sped away to the right across the houses
        and city” Book II, Line 144
Bird Omens Continued
    A second omen in the form of birds comes when
     Telemachos is leaving Menelaus’ house; “As he
     spoke a bird flew by on the right, an eagle carrying in
     his talons a great white goose he had caught tame
     from the yard” Book XV, Line 160
        This omen is interpreted by everyone who sees it as a
         sign of Odysseus’ homecoming and his ridding of the
         suitors
        Unlike the previous eagle omen, this instance portrays
         the suitors, not as a grand eagle, but, metaphorically, as
         a lowly goose, which continues to solidify Odysseus’s
         power over them as the prophecy approaches
         manifestation.
                                       The Olive Tree
   The olive tree is associated with the goddess Athena, and this theme is
    continued throughout the novel, as Odysseus constantly remains under
    her figurative wing.
       The first time we see this happen is when Odysseus falls asleep once landing
        in the country of the Phaiakians, “underneath two bushes that grew from the
        same place, one of shrub, and one of wild olive” Book V, Line 476
       Again we see it as he returns to Ithaca asleep, and the Phaiakians set him
        down underneath “an olive tree with spreading leaves” Book XIII, Line 102

   In these instances, the presence of the olive tree indicates that Athena is
    indeed watching over Odysseus, keeping him safe, most particularly as
    he slumbers.
                                 Foreshadowing of
                                      Agamemnon
   The story of Agamemnon is repeatedly referenced to foreshadow
    the Odysseus’ return to Ithaca without welcome, a concept that
    speaks to the Greek code of hospitality.
       The ghost of Agamemnon tells Odysseus, “When you bring your ship
        in to your own dear country, do it secretly, not out in the open. There is
        no trusting in women”, advice which later helps him, Book XI, Line
        455
       Agamemnon is mentioned several times toward the beginning of the
        piece; Telemachos’ maturation that takes place during his figurative and
        literal journey toward the threshold of adulthood mirrors Orestes’
        growth in avenging his father
         Both Menelaus and Nestor explain Agamemnon’s story to
            Telemachos ( Book III, Line 254 and Book IV, Line 512)
                                                            Food
   Featured numerous times across        “When they had roasted and
    the plotline of the Odyssey,           taken off the spits the outer
    banquets are held before the           meats, dividing shares they held
    matters of business are attended       their communal high feast”
                                           Book II, Line 65
    to. This is a common etiquette
    that reflects the Greek code of       “A grave housekeeper brought in
                                           the bread and served it to them,
    hospitality.
                                           adding many good things to it,
                                           generous with her provisions,
   Noble men delight their guests         while a carver lifted platters of
    with feasts; examples include          all kinds of meat and set them in
    Nestor and Menelaus in the             front of them, and placed beside
    beginning of the piece.                them the golden goblets” Book
                                           IV, Line 55
   Examples of noble feasts:
                 Food Continued
   Although these noblemen give feasts with good
    intentions, the tradition of banqueting also results in
    further obstacle for Odysseus and his crew; Wretched
    men and immortals give feasts that deceive and
    manipulate
   Odysseus’ own need for food gets him into trouble
       This is demonstrated when, even after two prophecies,
        Odysseus’s crew “[cuts] out from near at hand the best of
        Helio’s cattle” and they die because of it Book XII, Line
        353
       At Circe’s feast where is she “[mixes them a potion, with
        barley and cheese and pale honey added to Pramneian
        wine, but put into the mixture malignant drugs” Book X,
        Line 234
                               Food and Trouble
       A final example of the relationship between food and trial is the men’s
        experience with the the Lotus- Eaters; “any of them who ate the honey-sweet
        fruit of lotus was unwilling to take any message back, or to go away, but they
        wanted to stay there with the lotus-eating people” Book IX, Line 94

   Some of the monstrous obstacles, as opposed to manifeseting their deceit
    through food, simply display their maliciousness; instead of entertaining
    guests with a meal, these creatures make their guests the meal.
       Polyphemus, who cut up Odysseus’s companions “limb by limb and got supper
        ready, and like a lion reared in the hills, without leaving anything, ate them,
        entrails, flesh, and the marrowy bones alike” Book IX, Line 291
       The Laistrygones, who “[snatch] up one of [Odysseus’s] companions and
        [prepare] him for dinner” Book IX, Line 116
                 Food Continued
   The importance of food is underscored by the
    mention of the suitors who eat away at Telemachos’
    inheritance, in effect proving their lack of
    righteousness. Their indecency is accentuated when
    they refuse food to Odysseus in beggar form.
       Odysseus berates one of the suitors, Antinoos, saying
        “You would not give a bit of salt to a servant in your
        own house, since now, sitting at another’s, you could not
        take a bit of bread and give it to me. It is there in
        abundance” Book XVII. Line 455

				
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