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Penelope's Motives Essay

1155 words - 5 pages

In The Odyssey, Homer depicts Penelope as a woman of steadfastness and fidelity. Penelope's longing to reunite with her family, however, is not the sole driving force behind her actions; having taken over the role of Odysseus, Penelope assumes an almost mocking stance toward her suitors while yearning to maintain her position of power.As a woman, Penelope has no momentum or voice of her own, but must operate according to the decisions of her patriarchal family. This is not to imply that Penelope is by definition powerless, but it is worth noting that her decisions are actively determined by the wishes of the men responsible for her. Accordingly, Penelope faces a potentially reduced role if Odysseus returns or if she marries one of the suitors. Upon his departure, Odysseus instructs his wife to attend to pertinent family affairs. In addition to carrying out womanly duties such as raising her son, Penelope now hopes to see the preservation of her household until Odysseus returns. Fortunately, she is well qualified for such duties; despite the constant aggravation and gluttony of the suitors, she is able to prevent the potential threat to Odysseus' position and keep her household intact with her crafty measures. The account of her manipulating the suitors with weaving is exceptionally witty: And she began to weave, and the weaving finespun, The yarns endless, and she would lead us on: 'Young men, my suitors, now that King Odysseus is no more, go slowly, keen as you are to marry me, until I can finish off this web… (The Odyssey, 2, 103-107) Penelope is able, through her strategic abilities, to compel the suitors into waiting for her to decide among them, thus prolonging her command over the situation. One may argue that her acts simply emphasize the loyalty to Odysseus and the family. However, the fact that Odysseus has been absent for a good 20 years cannot be overlooked. It is feasible for Penelope to alter her stance to an extent, if not completely, during that time. It is also plenty of time for her to be accustomed to and enjoy the position of command. Power brings just about anything one wishes. It is evident that Penelope holds such a belief as well. The extent of her authority over the suitors appears once again in Book 18: They [suitors] bring in their own calves and lambs to feast the friends of the bride-to-be, yes, and shower her with gleaming gifts as well.They don't devour the woman's goods scot-free. (The Odyssey, 19, 312-315) She possesses the suitors in the palm of her hands, controlling their minds without much hardship. Homer may have taken her love for power into account when she is described in Book 19: Now down from her chamber came...

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