Homer's Odyssey is a story of the homecoming of Odysseus after the Trojan War. Odysseus left his wife, Penelope, and their young son, Telemachos, almost twenty years before the telling of this story to fight in the Trojan War. His absence places Penelope in a rather precarious position. Faced with many different circumstances, both good and bad, Penelope is on her own to decide the path she wishes to take. Depending on her decisions, the situations could either be filled with wonderful opportunities or perilous dangers. The strong character of Penelope is revealed by her decisions.
While Odysseus is away from home, Penelope finds herself playing the role of dutiful wife coupled with the conflicting role of single mother trying to run a household. As a dutiful wife, Penelope is faithful to Odysseus although she is plagued by suitors who are all eager to marry her. She waits patiently, albeit sadly, for Odysseus to return while successfully keeping her suitors at bay. There is nothing that she would like more than for her husband to return safely to her and so she yearns for his return. "Since the unforgettable sorrow comes to me, beyond others, / so dear a head do I long for whenever I am reminded / of my husband, whose fame goes wide through Hellas and midmost Argos (Odyssey 1.342-344)." Since Telemachos was so young when Odysseus went off to war, he is not even sure that Odysseus is his father. It is up to Penelope, in her mother role, to dispel this doubt from Telemachos' mind. He states, "my mother says indeed I am his. I for my part / do not know (Odyssey 1.215-216)."
Penelope is in great danger of losing control of the household, a position she t...
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...owing for the success of her scheme to delay them. Penelope is able to use her wisdom to turn her potentially perilous situation into one filled with numerous advantages and opportunities for her.
Works Cited and Consulted
Diana Buitron-Oliver and Beth Cohen, "Female Representations and Interpreting the Odyssey," by Seth Schein, pp. 17-27.
Hexter, Ralph. A Guide to The Odyssey: A Commentary on the English Translation of Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Random House, 1993.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Random House, 1990.
Lillian Doherty, Siren Songs: Gender, Audiences, and Narrators in the Odyssey (Ann Arbor 1995), esp. chapter 1.
Marilyn Arthur Katz, Penelope's Renown: Meaning and Indeterminacy in the Odyssey (Princeton 1991).
Nancy Felson-Rubin, Regarding Penelope: From Courtship to Poetics (Princeton 1994).
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