Some sixty times in the Iliad and Odyssey, the narrator describes a sequence of events with the climactic phrase, "And now X would have happened, had not Y intervened." Though some recent studies have begun to focus on this narrative technique, a fuller accounting of its properties remains desirable, as many of the passages where it is employed are quite significant to the overall construction of the plots. I have termed the phenomenon pivotal contrafactuals. The present study argues that the composer achieves three general narrative benefits by employing this device. First, it is a method for emphatically changing the direction of the plot (hence the adjective "pivotal"). Second, it allows the narrator to confer added emphases of various kinds upon the events he describes. Third, the narrator often uses the construction to make an editorial comment upon the character on whose behalf the intervention occurs. Intriguingly, Homer appears to link some pivotal contrafactuals together through various means. Some occur as equivalent elements in different multiforms of a common type scene. Some occur in different narratives describing the same event. These latter raise the possibility that divine intervention of which he is unaware occurs in Odysseus's narrative of his wanderings. Finally, I suggest that a passage at the beginning of the Catalogue of Ships, which has attracted various interpretations, is a modified pivotal contrafactual.
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