Instructor: Dr. McNally
ENGL 1341 – H
Due date: 10/26/2015
What are the roles of women through the character of Penelope in the Odyssey?
The ancient Greek myths are an immense source of heroic stories. However, male heroes are more highly valuated than heroines are. Even friendships between men are more important than women themselves. Hercules and Achilles are more well-known as great Greek heroes than Atalanta even though she is also a great Greek heroine. The stories of Achilles and Hector are the main focus in the Iliad, and women play a minor part in this epic. Nevertheless, Homer is a just author; he indicates that women are as important as men in his second epic, the Odyssey. He not only depicts the ordeal and fantasy adventure of Odysseus to his homeland, but the clever and faithful role of the main woman, Penelope. Through the perfect portrait of Penelope’s domestic and social roles, Homer shows his developed thinking about the position of women at this time.
Most of the qualities to become a good wife and mother are found in Penelope. Penelope and Odysseus are like-minded. They understand and believe each other even though they have been separated by war for twenty years. As Nancy Felson describes this “horophrosyne”: “Face-to-face, the two engage in a courtship dance in which now one, now the other takes the lead. They reverse roles, take risks, dominate, and outwit each other, until finally they reunite” (44). Only the wife who loves her husband can understand her husband without verbal interaction. Through her intelligence, Penelope completely knows and understands her husband’s situation. Moreover, Penelope is a faithful wife. It is very hard to wait for a person who is out of touch for almost twenty years. Odysseus leaves his wife and infant son at home to go to the Trojan War and during that time, there is no letter or news from him to Penelope. All Penelope can do is to faithfully wait; she does. Waiting for...