Odysseus’ initial disguise as the “Man of Strife” when he first reunites with Laertes is an externalization of his guarded attitude toward his father. Homer paints him as a cautious man, and this is evident in his decision to “test the old man first, reproach him with words that cut him to the core”. This is perhaps due to his experience with the suitors and servant women, which proved him wise to be apprehensive of even those close to him. However, even in disguise Odysseus attempts a discreet play on words to test his father:
“I come from Roamer-Town, my home’s a famous place,
my father’s Unsparing, son of old King Pain,
and my name’s Man of Strife…”
Odysseys hides subtle lexical hints within these lines, such as the parallel between “son of old King Pain” and the meaning of his name Odysseus, the Son of Pain, to prod his father to recognize him.
True to the scene mentioned above, Odysseus is usually the master of deceit, but following his test of Laertes, there is the slight irony in him shedding his layers of disguise to bare his identity in order to gain back his father’s love and trust. Similar to Laertes’ test for Odysseus’ identity, Penelope had previously tested Odysseus, and this test by Laertes indicates the depth of their relationship – one that reveals how Odysseus, despite being a battle-scarred warrior who has ruthlessly slaughtered men, has people dear to his heart with whom he has built a relationship substantial enough to provide “a sign, some proof” of. The closeness of Laertes and Odysseus’ relationship can also be seen from the distinction between Laertes’ request for proof and the quick acceptance of Odysseus’ identity by Telemachus, who, though is Odysseus’ son, Odysseus has not built a solid relationship with, in contrast to Laertes. Their father-son relationship is unveiled further through the two pieces of evidence Odysseus responds to Laertes with: “the wound [Odysseus] took from the boar’s white tusk on Mount Parnassus”, and “the trees [Laertes] gave [Odysseus] years ago”.