due: discussion 3 Many heroes must face the underworld. If descending into the underworld, or Hell, this is called a katabasis. If confronting spirits through a sort of séance, as Odysseus does, this is called a nekyia. While Odysseus has clear goals in his séance with the dead—to gain information from Tiresias--what is its purpose for the poem thematically? In other words, do you think that confronting the dead has any special significance to the plot beyond the obvious? Yes, confronting the dead in the poem has a special significance to the plot beyond the obvious.
This is evident where the ghost of Agamemnon asked the ghost of Amphimedon to explain what happened to many fine young men who accompanied him to the underworld. The answer by the ghost of Amphimedon reveals that Ulysses had disappeared for a long time such that his wife had some suitors that were courting her. In addition, it is through the answer by the ghost that the intentions of Ulysses wife are known. She had no intention of getting married to any of the suitors courting her, but her aim was to destroy all of them.
Another significance of confronting the dead is that it unravels the reason Penelope took four years to complete her needlework. The discussion between the two ghosts disclose that Penelope (Ulysses wife) played a trick on all suitors to avoid getting married. This is clear where the ghost of Amphimedon says that they caught her at night in the act of undoing her needlework that she had completed during the day. In addition, confronting the dead explained how Ulysses came back home.
The ghost of Amphimedon explained that Ulysses returned to his home dressed in rags like a beggar so that no one could tell who he was. Furthermore, Amphimedon’s ghost talked of the test of stringing the bow that the suitors failed, but Ulysses succeeded. This signifies their weakness of fear while from the perspective of Ulysses it shows his bravery. Moreover, the ghost of Amphimedon recalled the attack in which they were killed and that their dead bodies were never recovered from Ulysses home. This is an indication of Ulysses power and authority.
Finally, confronting the dead disclosed that women who remained chaste after their husband’s death were honored, and their husbands are considered blessed according to the period the poem was written. This is noticeable where the ghost of Agamemnon said that Ulysses is blessed to have Penelope, the daughter of Icarius as his wife. This signifies Ulysses dignity and integrity. Work citedDavis, Paul, Gary Harrison, David M. Johnson, and John F. Crawford. The Bedford Anthology of World Literature, Compact Edition, Volume 1: The Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern World (Beginnings-1650).
Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. 2000 Pages. Print.