Cheating your way back: Odysseus' return to a real world

Ronald Blankenborg


In this article I argue that the considerable contribution of cheating to the development of the narrative of Homer’s Odyssey (ca. 700 BCE) is the consequence of the epic’s chaotic and precipitous start – so precipitous in fact that the actorial motivation and the narratorial motivation (De Jong 2004) are not automatically in sync. Faced with the sudden – and for many characters involved: unexpected – challenge to account for the choices made over the past ten years since the fall and destruction of Troy, the Odyssey’s main characters do not always justify their actions with plausible or coherent arguments. Especially Odysseus appears to cheat while mixing truth with falsehood as he introduces the reasons and the circumstances of his unexpected and rather belated return home. His wife Penelope equally struggles justifying her deeds: she appears to have been cheating, but her acts turn out to have been well-considered. Telemachus, their son, suffers from his inability to mask his true intentions (Heitman 2005); he still has to master what is presented as a highly valued skill in the Odyssey, the art of cheating. It is in fact, I will argue, so highly valued that all narrators, including Homer himself, allow for cheating and lying in order to bring the precipitously started Odyssey to a proper conclusion.

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Electra | ISSN: 1792-605X

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