For this essay, I have chosen to explore lines 451-476 of Book 21: Odysseus strings his bow. Penelope has agreed to take on the suitor who can string Odysseus’ bow. Telemachus and other suitors have tried to string the bow, but have all failed to do so. Here, Odysseus is stringing his own bow, still under the disguise of a beggar, and succeeds with ease. Homer uses an intricate simile, comparing the bow to a lyre. In this essay, I will explore the symbolism of the bow, and the use of its comparison to a lyre.
The bow is a symbol of many things. Here, it is a symbol of worth to claim Odysseus’ household, as he who can string the bow can claim Penelope as his bride. However, Penelope seems to have picked something that only Odysseus could have done. By showing this, Homer has not only highlight that the Penelope is longing for Odysseus, but also that none of the suitors can measure up to him. Even his son, Telemachus, is unable to string the bow, which shows that Telemachus is not yet ready to assume his father’s position as the man of the house.