Sarcasm is a theme commonly expressed in various forms of writings. People use sarcasm when irritated, disappointed or angered by an action and they expect the recipients to recognize their vengeful intension (Minchin 542). In this case, we analyze Homer’s poem, Odyssey. Odyssey describes the sufferings and struggles of a king who spends ten years in war and another set of years in his journey back home.
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Many transformations have taken place since Odysseus left home. Suitors have taken advantage of his absence to destroy his wealth. On his return home, Odysseus pretends to be a beggar and this causes a series of sarcastic instances. This paper discusses the expression of sarcasm in the Odyssey.
Sarcasm in Scheria: Euryalos vs. Odysseus
Laodamas invites Odysseus to participate in a game. However, Odysseus declines the offer because his concerns about his return home engaged his brain (Minchin 541). Euryalos, a young Phaiakian utters sarcastic words to Odysseus saying he refused to play because of his incompetence.
He likens him to a merchant seaman who obtains profits from trading; a “heart-biting” statement that insults Odysseus. In anger, Odysseus leaps to his feet and displays his superior skills in the game. Euryalos feels ashamed. With guilt, he apologizes and offers Odysseus a gift.
Sarcasm in the palace: Antinoos, Eumaios and Telemachos vs. Odysseus
Eumaios leads Odysseus (the beggar) to the palace where he begs from one suitor to another. Antinoos mocks Eumaios for his exaggerated politeness to the “disgusted swineherd”. He calls Odysseus a noxious beggar. This leads him to a series of arguments with Eumaios until Telemachos intervenes. Telemachos sarcastically states that Antinoos is senior and his actions portrayed politeness.
He tells Antinoos to continue with his generosity to the poor beggar and ignore servants who distracted his generosity (Minchin 543). However, Telemachos gains courage later on and openly accuses Antinoos of his extreme greediness. Antinoos is infuriated, becomes arrogant and threatens violence. Antinoos hurts the poor beggar, but the beggar decides to remain calm.
Sarcasm at the pack Eurymachos vs. Odysseus
Eurymachos is a suitor leading the pack. He is a dissembler who taunts Odysseus and cracks a joke of his baldness. He sarcastically tells Odysseus that because he chose to live as a beggar, he should continue living on the mercies of generous people. He cannot offer him paid work in the pack.
Odysseus is infuriated by Eurymachos insult and he subjects him to a series of rustic and aristocratic challenges. The beggar insults Eurymachos telling him that should Odysseus return to the palace, he would escape swiftly such that the wide doors would appear narrow (Minchin 545). Odysseus makes this insult publicly and Eurymachos threatens to harm him.
Sarcasm at the hall: Ktesippos and Telemachos vs. the beggar
Telemachos had known that the beggar was his real father and he welcomed him with utmost hospitality. Ktesippos is the third suitor who pretends to offer sentiments to the beggar. He openly mocks the beggar by stating that he would offer him an ox-hoof as a guest-gift.
He throws the ox-hoof on the beggars head. Fortunately, Ktesippos misses the beggar’s head and Odysseus gives him a sardonic smile (Minchin 547). Odysseus is filled with bitterness, but Telemachos comes to his rescue to physically attack Ktesippos.
Sarcasm prior to the contest of the bow: Theoklymenos vs. the suitors
Theoklymenos prophesies a sad and horrifying death for the suitors who merely laugh. The suitors laughed and teased Telemachos of his struggles to defend the beggar. They make repeated jokes of Theoklymenos prophesy. The suitors make irritating jokes of the beggar stating that he struggled to have his stomach full.
They even suggest shipping and selling the beggar and other guests to the Sicilians to raise Telemachos household income. These jokes deeply hurt Odysseus and Telemachos while they arouse jeers and laughter to the suitors.
Sarcasm at the contest of the bow: Odysseus vs. the suitors
A series of events happen leading to the contest of the bow. Two suitors, Antinoos and Leodes gang up to insult and mock Eumaios. Their actions flash hostility and bring in tension amongst the suitors. They considering the beggar as naïve and allow him to take the bow and take part in the fight.
Odysseus simply examines the bow and one of the suitors mocks him saying he is a connoisseur. Another suitor sarcastically says that the beggar’s good fortune would equate to his success with the bow (Minchin 551).
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Odysseus strings the bow and announces that it is time to rejoice. He commands the gathering, strips off the suitors and takes over the powers at the palace. Odysseus and his son, together with the loyal retainers claim victory in the bow context.
Sarcasm prevails in most parts of the poem. It is evident that sarcasm can lead to a series of events. The exaggerated politeness of Odysseus in response to sarcasm leads to a series of dramatic events. Odyssey is one of the best poems representing sarcasm, where, Odysseus exaggerated politeness covers the better part of the poem.
Minchin, Elizabeth. “The Expression of Sarcasm in the Odyssey.” A Journal of Classical Studies, 63.1 (2010): 533-556. Print.