Analysis of Chapter 1 of the Penelopiad (Margaret Atwood)

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Analysis of Chapter 1 of ‘The Penelopiad’ (Margaret Atwood) The Penelopiad is, first and foremost, is a feminist perspective of events that unfolded during The Odyssey. It is from Penelope’s, the cousin to Helen of Troy, point of view- a violent and revisionist view of events that took place. As the central figure is a woman, we heard her thoughts and know of her feelings, we are able to emphasise with her. History tends to ‘downsize’ a woman’s (even women’s) role in events, not telling of the impact of a woman as much as they would for a man, whereas The Penelopiad is just the opposite.

Noticeably, the chapter is titled ‘A Low Art’. Low art is considered to be incomparable to items of high art, for example comparisons between Mozart and modern day (21st century) music would be impossible, because the quality of music is so different and Mozart is heralded throughout the ages. It makes you think that Penelope does not think that her version(s) of events are of importance, but that if the reader wishes to know her side of events, then they would read on.

The first chapter has an underlying sense of playful irony; it is Penelope reflecting on her life from Hades, “Now that I’m dead I know everything.” However, by following this statement saying “I know only a few factoids that I didn’t know before,” the irony becomes apparent, because Penelope is saying that she doesn’t really know everything, she is only a bit more knowledgeable in death than in life, and that death is “much too high a price to pay for the satisfaction of curiosity”.

Another way this irony comes into effect is that the narrator, Penelope, is not human- she is of ‘spiritual matter,’ a classical figure speaking from ‘beyond the grave,’ giving a slightly comical edge to the narration of this chapter. This narrative also proves to be inconsistent, through the use of irony, as she starts by saying she knows everything, before contradicting herself in a further thought and saying ‘well, really...
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