Topics in Lit
1 October 2012
Penelope: The Odyssey’s Other Hero
When you think about The Odyssey, one name should come to mind, and that name is Odysseus. He’s the obvious hero of this story. However, his wife Penelope is just as much a hero as he is. She is a hero because she waited for her husband’s return and she took care of the house while he was away. Although Penelope’s whole hero journey is not told to the audience, you can see the similarities about what their journeys by what is said. These two characters are very clever. Determination and persistence are two qualities that Odysseus and Penelope share. All Odysseus wants is to return home to his kingdom, wife, and son. All Penelope wants is for her husband to return home and their family to be reunited. They are both strong willed leaders and loyal to those they care about and those who work for them. They are generous in their daily actions.
Penelope is very clever and plans long term just like Odysseus did. Odysseus is clever when he meets the Cyclops and tells him his name is Nobody. Once he and his men stab him in his eye, Polyphemus starts screaming “Nobody’s killing me now by fraud and not by force!” (Fagles 224).Polyphemus was once told of a prophecy that a man named Odysseus would kill him. By telling the Cyclops that his name was Nobody, this long term plan kept Odysseus and his crew alive a few days longer. Penelope is clever too when she comes up with the shroud plan. Her husband has been gone for over twenty years and the people of Ithaca want a new king. Penelope is slowly starting to give up hope that her husband will return one day. While they’re suitors in her palace trying to win over her heart, she tells them she cannot marry until she has weaved a shroud in Odysseus’s honor. What the suitors don’t realize is that she undoes all of the progress she’s made for that day, so that the shroud will never be finished and she won’t have to remarry any of these men. This long term plan is buying herself time.
When Odysseus returns as the beggar and Penelope figures it out she comes up with a clever plan. She tells the suitors that whoever can string Odysseus’s bow and shoot it through twelve arrows will win her heart (Fagles 426). The audience is shown how clever she truly is. Her perceptiveness has helped her to figure out that Odysseus is the beggar. She knows that if he can string the bow he can win her back and have a fair shot at fighting the suitors.
Odysseus and Penelope are both strong willed leaders and very loyal. Penelope has the opportunity to remarry but chooses to believe that one day her husband will return, even though it’s been twenty years. She chooses to remain loyal. She shows her strong willed personality by taking care of the house while her husband is away. She also raises her son as a single mother and simultaneously takes care of her kingdom. She has disloyal servants and yet she still remains loyal to them. This mirrors Odysseus’s loyalty when he personally goes after his crew to save them from becoming addicted to the islands locus.
Another heroic trait that Penelope has is her generosity. When Odysseus was disguised as the beggar, Penelope took a special interest in him. You can only imagine how many beggars came to her home daily. She was always generous to them by feeding them, but after they were finished they’d leave. Odysseus however received special treatment. She has a meeting with him. She tells her maid, Eurycleia, “…wash the stranger and make his bed, with bedding, blankets and lustrous spreads to keep him warm…” (Fagles 400). Her generosity shows her kind hearted spirit.
Penelope has endured a lot of hardship just like her husband has. Both of these characters heroic journeys had many similarities. They were leaders and they were loyal. They were clever in their strategic planning. She is a women but she is a strong leader and a ruler. She is strong willed but shows her soft side. This is what makes Penelope such a good hero. She is relatable to the audience no matter what the gender.
Essay on Role of Penelope in Homer's Odyssey
788 Words4 Pages
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