Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2007


Classical Literature and Philology


Characters in the Odyssey do not as a rule say what they mean. Dialogue tends toward obfuscation rather than illumination, and conversation in this epic is a game at which some people are better players than others. Playing the game properly requires a keen ability to use words to convey meaning indirectly and a sensitive awareness of what has been said despite what has been said. Homer's attitude toward language extends to a generally suspicious view of the world, in which the characters' success in life, even their survival, owes a great deal to both using and recognizing speech as a means of disguising thoughts and intent. Human communication is smoke and mirrors, and the world of the Odyssey is characterized by distrust and uncertainty.


DOI: 10.1353/lit.2007.0021