Hospitality in the Odyssey

Essay by thekingandqueenHigh School, 11th gradeA+, December 2008

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Hospitality in The Odyssey serves as the moral code, following the rules shows high morality and not obeying them demonstrates immorality. Three aspects of hospitality are displayed that show the reader how moral the characters are: those who welcome without question, those who neglect their duty as hosts, and those who abuse the hospitality that is extended to them. Both the guest and the host behave properly when Telemachus visits King Meneleus. As a guest, Telemachus treats his host with respect and dignity by addressing him as "my lord" and stating how wonderful his host's house is. Meneleus states, "Help yourselves to food," (Book 4 - line 68) showing what a generous and welcoming host he is. He also gives Telemahcus a solid silver mixing-bowl before he leaves, since giving gifts was a part of being a hospitable host. Because Meneleus and Telemachus obey the rules, they are shown as moral, upstanding Greeks who act in accordance with their culture.

Polyphemus breaks the moral code by trapping Odysseus and his men within his cave, showing his blatant inhospitality and, therefore, immorality. Odysseus shouts to Polyphemus, "You barbarian - how can any man on earth come visit you after this? What you've done outrages all that's right!" (Book 9 - lines 392-394) The Cyclops are depicted as uncivilized monsters; closely related, Polyphemus is not being a good host, which shows his immorality. Polyphemus' punishment is that Odysseus blinds him, pointing out to his reader that the rules of hospitality are important must be followed. In addition, the suitors crudely take advantage of their hospitable host by taking too much. The foreshowed deaths of these improper guests demonstrate to the reader the gravity of breaking the moral code and, thus, being immoral. Hospitality was so significant to the Greeks because...