Hello, I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this because technically it’s not my day to post a on the blog but I wanted to continue a discussion that I believe otherwise we would not be able to get back to during class and I feel like this would be a great way to reach out to everyone. I would like to further discuss the meaning of the passage in book X, page 177 lines 432 – 452, specifically the ones we were assigned to pay close attention to, lines 441-444.
“Their eyes upon me, each one took my hands, and wild regret and longing pierced them through, so the room rang with sobs, and even Kirke pitied their transformation” (432-452)
After reading some of the intro paragraphs during class today, I realized that the interpretation of these lines varied and many didn’t match what I believed the lines to mean. One way this could be interpreted (which seemed to be the most common interpretation) was that the crewmembers were the ones that were filled with wild regret and longing, this makes the reader question why they would regret being turned back into a human. A common explanation I saw was that the men would rather stay pigs than continue on this never ending journey to return home. If this were true, then why would “the room [ring] with sobs”? Wouldn’t one expect the room to ring with shouts if they were upset? Also if the crewmembers were the ones filled with regret, why would the text mention that “even Kirke pitied that transformation”.
Taking a step back for a moment to explain where the confusion may have occurred may help in properly analyzing the true meaning of the text. I think the problem arises simply because of the grammar. For the reader, it may be hard to determine who is feeling the regret and for what purpose. The fact that “each one [of Odysseus’s men] took [his] hand” (441) right after their transformation shows that they are looking to him as their leader. This action can be seen as a way of following him, taking his hand so he can guide them. This is no way seems like a hostile action out of anger. I believe the crew looked towards Odysseus, waiting to see his response to the situation and saw his “wild regret and longing” (442) and that was what “pierced them through” (442). They saw these emotions in their leader and “so the room rang with tears” (443). The use of the word tears connects the idea that because of the regret and longing they saw, it caused them to cry. It also suggests that they were crying immediately after their transformation, it wasn’t until some cue caused it to happen.
On his journey home, Odysseus continues to lose men in battle. Odysseus emphasizes the importance of continuing to fight to return home or to die in glory when he states “we’ll not go down/ into the House of Death before our time”(10.194-195) yet he continues to explore the new lands they encounter when shifted off course. Exploration and discovery encompasses Odysseus’s journey and seems to override his longing for home and endanger his men. When he lands on Kirke’s island he instructs his men to go and explore. When they encounter Kirke, Goddess and enchantress, she disables them turning them into swine. His men, now weak and completely helpless are only released once Odysseus overpowers Kirke, but only with the help of the God’s. When Kirke turns them back into men, as the “bristles fell off” and they begin to evolve into stronger, taller more powerful men it’s as if this new image of them is a comparison to how they looked before the transformation, weaker, smaller and thus less powerful. Because Odysseus sent him out to explore, he may feel guilty when he sees them in such a weak state that he inherently put them in.
Focusing on the physical transformation of the men back into humans is too much a narrow scope to view this context from. I believe Kirke was referring to a transformation that occurred within Odysseus that she pitied. She pitied the fact that he felt longing to go home, I guess my biggest question now is if I interpreted this correctly, why does he wait a year to go home? Does he wait to give his crew time to recover? Does he wait because he enjoys it there? I would really enjoy if someone could give me an opinion on this matter. Thank you!