Chapters Twenty-One & Twenty-Two

Summary: Chapter Twenty-One

In Manhattan, Percy separates from Annabeth and Grover so he can return the master bolt to Zeus while Annabeth and Grover go back to Camp Half-Blood to tell Chiron everything that has happened. At Olympus, Percy delivers the master bolt to Zeus and Poseidon and discloses details of his quest. He tells them about the fight with Ares as well as the unease he encountered while at the entrance of Tartarus. Zeus dismisses Percy’s concerns and spares his life since he returned the bolt. Poseidon reassures Percy that he claims him as his son and tells Percy that he will have a decision to make regarding a delivered package when he returns home. At this time, Percy also learns that his mother was returned home after Hades received his Helm. 

Back home, Percy reunites with his mother and Smelly Gabe. Smelly Gabe blames him for his destroyed car and says he is not welcome there. He raises his hand to hit Sally when she tries to defend Percy. Sally and Percy retreat upstairs to his bedroom where Percy finds the package containing Medusa’s head. He suggests that Sally use the head against Smelly Gabe. Percy decides to leave for Camp Half-Blood and says goodbye to his mother.

Summary: Chapter Twenty-Two

Percy returns to Camp Half-Blood and is welcomed with praise and celebratory gifts. In a letter, his mother tells him that Smelly Gabe mysteriously disappeared and she has received a nice commission on her sculpture. She used the money to buy a new apartment, enroll at NYU, and hold a spot at a private school in New York for him. With that information, Percy realizes he has to decide if he wants to stay at Camp Half-Blood year-round or return home during the school year. Later that evening, Grover says goodbye to Annabeth and Percy as he departs on his search for Pan. 

To clear his head and decide what to do in the fall, Percy begins sword training. He sees Luke fighting dummies with a new sword named Backbiter, a two-sided sword that can kill mortal and creature. The two boys sit by a tree to talk and Percy gets the impression that Luke is getting ready to say goodbye. Suddenly, Luke snaps his fingers and a scorpion the size of Percy’s hand appears from the pit. Luke points out that these scorpions can jump fifteen feet and the stinger can slice through clothes to kill someone in sixty seconds. 

During their conversation, Percy realizes that Luke is the missing piece from his prophesy: the betrayal of a friend. Luke felt deceived by the gods for sending him on a pity quest—one that had already been previously fulfilled by Hercules. He was frustrated with the gods for repeating the same quests when there was so much more out there, so he began to listen to urgings from Kronos and stole the bolt and the helm during the winter solstice. When caught by Ares, Luke convinced him that hiding the items would result in a war between the gods. At this point, Luke admits to summoning the hellhound to attack Percy in order to instill fear in the camp and propel Percy’s quest. He also admits that part of his plan failed when Percy gave the gifted shoes to Grover. The shoes were cursed and were supposed to drag Percy and the bolt into Tartarus. 

Luke declares that Kronos will rise and that the Olympians will be overthrown. Then he disappears while Percy tries to fight off the scorpion. Percy slices the scorpion but not before he is stung with poison. Although Percy tries to heal himself with the creek water, he is saved by Chiron’s magical nectar. He then tells Annabeth and Chiron about Luke’s deception and vows to take revenge. However, Chiron redirects Percy by pointing out that he will get his justice when the time is right. Annabeth has reconciled with her family and they arrive to take her home. Percy decides to go home as well and plans to fight Luke next summer.

Analysis: Chapters Twenty-One & Twenty-Two

Percy’s ability to empathize with different kinds of people, gods, and creatures makes reaching Olympus a bittersweet experience. He’s able to understand what drives Hades—a desire to be as important as his brothers in Olympus—and finds that returning the bolt and confronting Poseidon and Zeus proves to be emotional. Percy tells them his story to get them to understand what he has been through, and to show that he is aware of being manipulated. Poseidon’s callous and matter-of-fact tone leaves a bitter taste in Percy’s mouth in regards to the divine side of his family. They don’t have equal relationships with one another and have no qualms about using each other for their own means, a stark contrast to Percy’s concept of family. 

Freeing his mother from the gods and from Gabe parallels the way in which the mythological Perseus saves his mother, Danaë, from Polydectes with the head of Medusa. Again, it’s his empathy that makes the difference, imbuing his mother the courage to take control of her life just as Percy has.

Percy’s confrontation with Luke reveals how and why Luke has turned to darkness. Luke doesn’t feel validated by his own identity; his disillusionment and loneliness turn him into a pawn to be used by the gods, who know Luke is willing to betray those around him. Luke has given in and embraced the idea that it’s not worth it to be a hero, and that both gods and people are fundamentally manipulative. Because he has no self-worth or sense of identity, Luke is the epitome of someone who doesn’t value friendship and can’t be trusted. Luke’s journey mirrors Percy’s in all buts its end, where they diverge; Percy chooses love and kindness, while Luke does not.

Although Percy has matured and come to a greater understanding of himself, he still has much to learn. This idea foreshadows a future return to Camp Half-Blood. At the conclusion of the story, Percy finally feels comfortable with his identity. He is many different things: the son of a mortal woman, the son of a god, and a teenager who is growing into an adult. He is no more special than any other person his age, even though others see him as such. While he can’t control everything in his life, he knows that the way he treats others and his experiences with his new friends have made him a better person.