In Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, there are many characters that play significant roles in the story. However, one character that often goes overlooked is Argos, Odysseus’ faithful dog. Despite being a seemingly minor character, Argos serves as a symbol for important themes such as loyalty, reunion, and legacy throughout the epic. In this blog post, we will delve into the story of Argos in The Odyssey, his symbolism, role, and significance in the overall narrative.
The Story of Argos in The Odyssey
Argos, a loyal hunting dog, was given to Odysseus by his father, Laertes, when he was just a puppy. In The Odyssey, Argos is first mentioned in Book 17 when Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, returns to Ithaca after being away for 20 years. As he approaches his palace, Argos recognizes Odysseus despite his disguise and immediately wags his tail and tries to get up to greet him. However, Argos is old and neglected, lying on a dung heap, waiting for his master’s return.
This brief encounter between Odysseus and Argos may seem insignificant, but it carries a deeper meaning. It shows the loyalty and unconditional love that Argos has for his master, even after all these years of absence. It also foreshadows the theme of reunion, as Argos’ dying wish is to see his master once again before he passes away.
Throughout the rest of The Odyssey, Argos is only mentioned once more, in Book 22 when Odysseus finally reveals his true identity and takes back his kingdom. In this scene, Argos sees his long-lost master and dies peacefully, having fulfilled his duty to protect and serve Odysseus.
Argos as Symbolism in The Odyssey
As mentioned earlier, Argos serves as a symbol for important themes in The Odyssey. One of the most prominent symbols that Argos represents is loyalty. Despite being neglected and mistreated, Argos never loses his loyalty towards Odysseus. He remains faithful to his master until the very end, even though he has every reason to resent him for not taking care of him.
Argos’ loyalty also extends to his instinctual duty as a hunting dog. In ancient Greek society, dogs were seen as loyal companions and protectors. By showing Argos’ undying loyalty, Homer emphasizes the importance of loyalty and duty in Greek culture.
Another symbol that Argos represents is reunion. His brief encounter with Odysseus foreshadows the eventual reunion between Odysseus and his family. Just like Argos, who has been patiently waiting for his master’s return, Odysseus’ loved ones have been waiting for his return as well. The reunion between Odysseus and Argos further reinforces the theme of reunion in the epic.
The Role of Argos in The Odyssey
Despite being a minor character, Argos plays a crucial role in the overall narrative of The Odyssey. He serves as a reminder of Odysseus’ home and family, which constantly motivate him to endure his long and perilous journey back to Ithaca. Argos also serves as a contrast to the other characters in the epic, specifically Odysseus.
While Odysseus is portrayed as a cunning and strategic leader, Argos represents simplicity and purity. He is a simple dog, yet his loyalty and love are unwavering. This contrast highlights the complexity of human nature and emphasizes the values of loyalty and devotion that Argos represents.
Additionally, Argos also adds depth and emotion to the story. His death scene is one of the few moments in The Odyssey where Odysseus shows genuine emotion, as he mourns for his faithful companion. This adds a touch of humanity to Odysseus’ character and further emphasizes the bond between man and animal.
The Loyalty of Argos in The Odyssey
As mentioned earlier, Argos’ loyalty towards Odysseus is unwavering throughout the epic. This loyalty is not only shown through his actions but also through his physical state. When Odysseus first sees Argos, he is described as “infested with ticks and fleas” and “lying on a dung heap.” This shows the neglect that Argos has endured, yet despite it all, he still recognizes his master and shows his loyalty. This also highlights the depth of their bond, as Argos is able to recognize Odysseus even after many years apart.
Moreover, Argos’ loyalty is also contrasted with the disloyalty of other characters in the epic, such as the suitors who have taken over Odysseus’ palace and are trying to win Penelope’s hand. While they plot against their absent host, Argos remains loyal and true to his master, showcasing the importance of loyalty and honor in Greek society.
The Significance of Argos’ Death in The Odyssey
Argos’ death is a significant moment in The Odyssey, as it symbolizes the end of an era. With Argos gone, the last trace of Odysseus’ past is erased. His old faithful dog, who had been waiting for him all these years, is now gone. This further emphasizes the theme of reunion, as it shows that Odysseus can never truly go back to the way things were before his journey.
Furthermore, Argos’ death also serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that Odysseus had to make in order to return home. His journey was long and full of obstacles, and he had to leave behind his loyal companions, including Argos, in order to complete it. This adds a tragic element to the story and highlights the severity of Odysseus’ struggles.
Argos and the Theme of Reunion in The Odyssey
The theme of reunion is one of the central themes in The Odyssey, and Argos plays a crucial role in portraying this theme. As mentioned earlier, Argos’ brief encounter with Odysseus foreshadows the eventual reunion between Odysseus and his family. His death also symbolizes the bittersweet nature of reunion, as it marks the end of Odysseus’ past life and the beginning of a new one.
Moreover, Argos’ reunion with his master also highlights the bond between man and animal. It shows that even though Odysseus has been away for 20 years, his faithful dog still recognizes and remembers him. This adds an emotional and heartwarming element to the epic, showcasing the power of love and loyalty.
The Legacy of Argos in The Odyssey
While Argos may have been a minor character, he leaves a lasting legacy in The Odyssey. Through his loyalty, he serves as a reminder of the values that were highly regarded in Greek society, such as duty, honor, and devotion. He also adds depth and emotion to the story, making it more relatable and humanizing the characters.
Furthermore, Argos’ legacy also extends to other works of literature, where his character has been referenced and alluded to. One example is James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses, where Argos is mentioned at the beginning of the book, symbolizing the theme of loyalty.
The Contrast between Argos and Odysseus in The Odyssey
As mentioned earlier, Argos serves as a contrast to Odysseus in The Odyssey. While Odysseus is a complex and multifaceted character, Argos is portrayed as a simple and pure being. This contrast highlights the different aspects of human nature and adds depth to the characters.
Moreover, this contrast also showcases the differences between man and animal. While Odysseus is cunning and strategic, Argos relies on his instincts and loyalty. Yet, they both share a strong bond, which is evident in their brief encounter and Argos’ death scene.
The Foreshadowing of Argos’ Death in The Odyssey
Throughout The Odyssey, there are several instances where Argos’ eventual death is foreshadowed. One example is in Book 17, where Homer describes Argos as “exhausted with old age.” This foreshadows the inevitability of Argos’ death, as well as highlighting the passing of time since Odysseus left for Troy.
Another instance of foreshadowing is when Argos sees his master for the last time and dies peacefully. This foreshadows the eventual reunion between Odysseus and his family and serves as a reminder that even though reunions may be bittersweet, they are still worth striving for.
The Fate of Argos in The Odyssey
The fate of Argos in The Odyssey may seem tragic, but it serves a greater purpose in the story. His death symbolizes the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. It also highlights the sacrifices and struggles that Odysseus had to endure in order to return home. Additionally, it serves as a reminder of the bond between man and animal and the values of loyalty and devotion.
In conclusion, Argos may be a minor character in The Odyssey, but he serves a significant role in the overall narrative. As a symbol for loyalty, reunion, and legacy, Argos adds depth, emotion, and meaning to the epic. His story may be short-lived, but his legacy lives on, reminding us of the values that were highly regarded in ancient Greek society. The bond between man and animal is a powerful one, and Argos’ loyalty and love towards his master serve as a reminder of this enduring bond.