The beginning of Book 10 marks Odysseus’ arrival to the home of Aeolus where he had been provided everything he needed for his journey home. After one month had passed, Odysseus alone was given a gift to help him on his way, which caused tension amongst the crew. Ten days later, the vessel is in close proximity to the shores of Ithaca and Odysseus—after being sent into a state of fatigue from the open seas—falls asleep. Meanwhile, his fellow crewmembers start to question why Odysseus has been given a special gift and they are there simply to be tugged along for the journey. Behind his back, they open the bag that contained winds. The huge gust sends the vessel back to the island of Aeolus. After the entire incident, Odysseus states, “our own reckless folly swept us on to ruin,” (31) which sparks the question, why does Odysseus include himself in his statements about why he and his crew didn’t make it home to Ithaca with the help of Aeolus’ gift?
Although blame at the simplest level can be placed on the crewmembers for sneaking into Odysseus’ belongings, Odysseus still feels that fault is partly his. He feels like a parent, having to take control of his “children” on board and try and keep them out of trouble. With the job of captain, Odysseus must carry the load of numerous responsibilities and duties. Instead of dozing off while approaching shore, he ought to have been maintaining order of his children. His action of taking the blame may show how unstable he is. After being swept back to the Aeolian island, he was faced with the dilemma of whether he should “leap over the side and drown at once or grit [his] teeth and bear it, stay among the living.” Because Odysseus is overwhelmed by the temptation of death, he is pulling himself deeper into a world of melancholy. The build-up of upsetting events in his life may innately lead Odysseus to place more burden on himself to sink lower. It may have been wrong of him to keep his secret inside. I was glad to find out that in book 12 he learned from his mistake and told the crew the information that Circe had provided him about their new route home. This begs two questions: is or is not Odysseus to blame for the ship’s delayed return? Is the crew’s action of opening the bag justified?
From Book Ten we are more familiarized with Odysseus’ comrades. As noted before with the bag of wind incident, the crew as a whole displays a less mature, inferior, inexperienced façade upon comparison to Odysseus, which brings up the question whether or not he is a reliable narrator and what can be considered sufficient to understand the backbone of his story. There are two crewmembers mentioned in Book 10. Eurylochus, who is second in command, was given the special opportunity to lead half of the squadron to Circe's dwelling. Upon arrival, he was able to sense a possible trap, which sends him back to the base location in order to alert Odysseus. From the narrator’s standpoint, Odysseus looks like the more dominant figure, since it is he who builds the courage to go against Circe and her potions. In the meantime Eurylochus is portrayed as the scared, feeble student beckoning to Odysseus, “You will never return yourself, I swear, you’ll never bring back a single man alive,” and retreating to the black ship to eat and drink in safety. The other said comrade, Elpenor, is provided an even more humiliating reputation. Being the youngest member, he ironically dies at the end of Book 10 by walking off of a rooftop semi-conscious after waking up. Odysseus, like many other powerful figures at the time, may have perceived himself as honorable and heroic if death comes in a battle or as a result of a respectable hardship in his life. As a way of lowering the status of the crew around him, his condemns comrades such as Elpenor with a poor reason for death, probably as a way of taking out his anger for not having a heroic demise in the Trojan War. In terms of being a “good” storyteller, I personally think that Odysseus’ comments on the other characters are a nuisance, but as long as the appropriate historical events were laid out in the chapter, that may be considered sufficient.
As a narrator, is Odysseus reliable?