The character of Penelope in Homer's Odyssey reflects the faithful wife who waits twenty years for the arrival of her husband. Only a strong woman could sustain the stress, anxiety and confusion resulting from the chaos of a palace with a missing king whose fate is unknown. Her responsibilities and commitments toward the man she loves are particularly difficult to keep, under the strain of the situation. Although she does not actively pursue an effort to find him, her participation in the success of Odysseus' homecoming can be seen in her efforts to defend and protect the heritage, reputation and the House of Odysseus in his absence. As Odysseus withstands his trial, Penelope withstands her trials against temptations to give in to the many anxious suitors, to give up on her faith and respect for her religion, her husband and even her self. Penelope's strength in keeping the highest standards in her function as a wife, woman and mother contributes to the success of Odysseus' homecoming by keeping the home and family for him to come back to.
Through many examples Homer indicates to us the standards of those times. Major examples about what is valued in a wife are encapsulated in book 6 (about Nausikaa). Homer uses this short story to present a standard from which we can evaluate Penelope's performance. In making a comparison we see that Penelope never stood idle and helpless. She continued to perform the duties expected of her, while her husband was missing.
Athena guides Nausikaa with a list of how to prepare herself for marriage. Of major importance is the upkeep of the household as well as good personal hygiene (starting as line 25), and as a young woman must try to please he...
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Before the eyes of the gods, Penelope never wishes to tarnish her reputation either. She honors them regularly in a ritual of bathing, anointing herself and her handmaidens with olive oil, saying prayers and sometimes making sacrifices.
From all the above we see that Penelope reflects successfully the faithful wife, the strong woman, the responsible woman the woman who cares about herself. She is loyal both to the principles of the palace and the principles of those times. During Odysseu's absence she continued to perform the duties expected of her very well and that is the reason, I believe that she managed to achieve the best reputation for Odysseus and herself, even though woman's role was restricted at that time. Like I always say behind evey great man there stands a greater woman.
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