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I am homeschooling my 3 daughters, and my oldest (12) went with me to Yoder’s to pick up some hay for the rabbits. Now, I would rather say, “hay for our horses,” but I must sadly set my masculinity aside and confess that it was for bunnies.
After we sung Alabama’s Walking in High Cotton, I took the opportunity to ask her some questions during our 20 minute drive. She just finished reading book 12 from the Odyssey, and my questioning ultimately led to why Odysseus must return home, what is a home.
While the Odyssey is certainly driven by the theme of Odysseus’ return home, I find that the home equally presents itself as a dominant theme in the story.
In book 1 Telemakhos replies to the disguised Athena,
our house was always princely, a great house, . . . But evil days the gods have brought upon it.
Later, in book 6, when Odysseus meets Nausikaa, he wishes upon her that,
the gods accomplish your desire: a home, a husband, and harmonious converse with him–the best thing in the world being a strong house held in serenity where man and wife agree.
What is fascinating to me is that Nausikaa instructs Odysseus to walk past her father the king, and go directly to her mother Arete. On the way to the royal home, Athena informs Odysseus about Arete telling him
Alkinoos married her and holds her dear. No lady in the world, no other mistress of a man’s household, is honored as our mistress is, and loved, by her own children, by Alkinoos, and by the people.
I do not think it is any accident that the queen’s name is Arete–Virtue.
Before I asked my daughter to answer why Odysseus needed to return home, I asked her what makes a home, what do you need to have for a home. She answered, “A husband and wife, a family, a building, land to grow crops and animals,” and then she said something I was not anticipating, “the people have to be good.”
My daughter then compared this to a song by 3 Days Grace, This House is not a Home. The song tells how drugs have destroyed the home. Why? What is not there? Why is it not a home? What should the home provide?
She continued, “it is like a city or a state, if the people are bad, chaos will follow and there will be no peace.”
Yes! Thank you. This is what I needed to aid my own understanding and thoughts about what the Odyssey teaches us concerning the home. “Now,” I asked, “what is the purpose of a home, and why must Odysseus return?” The answer was hovering before us on both sides of my cracked windshield. The home must be a place that provides what is good–food, shelter, love, justice–what is good for the body, soul, and family community. Without the good we are home-less.