Essay on Role of Penelope in Homer's Odyssey
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The Role of Penelope in Homer's Odyssey
The character of Penelope in Homer's Odyssey has served as an archetype of femininity proper. Her physical attributes, while comely by even the most demanding standards, are veiled. Her intellectual attributes are veiled too. She seems more often than not to wear a veil of tears (for her man) or a veil of silence (for her own wishes), or ineptitude (in her dealings with her son). She is certainly no Helen. She is not flaunting or whore-ish. She is not unconcerned with the needs of others, nor flippant about marital bonds, nor the loyalty of her heart. She does not steal the show, as Helen does time and again when she upstages her husband (who, by the way, may be a bumbler in the presence of his…show more content…
In this essay, I explore the possibility that Penelope's veil is a source of her presence/power. In particular, I explore the way Penelope's veiled intellectual attributes cover her deliberate mind, but not completely. As any good veil will do, Penelope's makes hazy the being and form underneath. It does not darken completely though. If we look with imagination and respect upon the veiled light of being and form, we might find another kind of power, equal to the glaring light of masculine power that Homer shows and tells us about in Odysseus, but far less overbearing. Far more alluring.
I pursue the idea that while Penelope faces oppression at the hands of her son, her suitors, and her social obligation to remarry, she remains free and powerful. Both her freedom and power are manifest in her cunning and deliberate ways. I argue that this is the manifestation of a femininity characteristic to her, and to the tradition of misogyny. Her deliberation marks her presence/power/femininity not despite her veil but because of it. When she tricks her suitors by unraveling Laertes' shroud after each day at her loom, when she tests Odysseus with questions about their bed, when she announces the contest of the bow, when she refuses to recognize Telemachus' impending adulthood, she shows, in veiled ways, her deliberate nature, her presence/power/femininity.
To account for how I move from absence to presence from impotence to power and from the first kind of
Show MorePenelope and Odysseus of Homer's Odyssey
Penelope and Odysseus, being kin spirits, soul mates, and a great husband and wife in their own right, are very much alike. They have many of the same qualities.
Both Penelope and Odysseus are very quick thinking and cunning. Odysseus, for example, devises the plan to get the Cyclops to drink the wine so the crew could stab him in the eye. Another example of Odysseus' cunning is his elaborate plan to massacre the suitors. Odysseus orders that all the weapons be taken out of the room where the arrow contest was being held, then that the women of the household to be locked in their rooms, as to not interfere, then…show more content…
So, each day she weaves the shroud and each night she tears the strings out of the cloths so that everyday the shroud is still in progress. Her plan works for quite a while until someone tips off the suitors.
Also, both Penelope and Odysseus are very faithful to each other, with Odysseus only straying once in their twenty year absence. Odysseus, the whole time he is gone, yearns for his wife and even wishing to leave the arms of the seductive Circe saying that he wants the love of his wife even though he says that his wife will never compare to her. Penelope, on the hand, is an angel. She is surrounded by rich, young men who do anything to marry her or just have her love in any way, but Penelope resists their every advance. She feels in her heart that her husband is still alive and never waivers.
The couple does have a difference though. Odysseus is terribly arrogant and proud while Penelope is very sweet and humble. Odysseus feels the need to alert the Cyclops when he leaves the island, igniting Poseidon's wrath. He and his crew plunder the land of the Cicones and stay