Penelope: A Hidden Hero
Loyalty (n.) – the act of showing faithfulness or devotion to a person, country, group or cause. Loyalty is essential for many reasons. Being loyal means you are willing to make self-sacrifice and do things for others to help them succeed. It means standing by somebody or something that you believe in, no matter what. Countless people have died showing loyalty for their country and for people they love. In Ancient Greece, loyalty to one’s family, friends, and acquaintances was viewed as essential, if not absolutely indispensable. Today still, almost all people see loyalty as an extremely substantial part of a strong relationship, and those whose lack loyalty are often shunned and ridiculed (e.g. Tiger Woods). Throughout The Odyssey, this value is reflected through the actions of Odysseus’s wife, Penelope. Although not a textbook hero by any means, Penelope’s loyalty was essential to the development of the story; otherwise, Odysseus’s twenty year journey would have been for naught. While Odysseus is away and enjoying all his different excursions, Penelope is able to resist the long line of suitors waiting to take her hand in marriage and stay loyal to him, showing her faith in Odysseus, her unmatchable patience, and her at-times overlooked intelligence.
Showing faith in someone or something is never easy. For instance, even as a diehard Braves fan, it’s sometimes hard to keep faith when your team is down in a critical game, the umps are doing everything within their control to prevent a win, and frankly, all looks lost. But from time to time, if you stick with something for long enough, it just might payoff. Penelope displays an uncanny faith in Odysseus, waiting over twenty years for him to return from what many said was an impossible voyage. Even Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, did not believe that Odysseus was still alive, and he even told Eurymachus that, “there is no more hope for my father’s homecoming” (Homer 38). Having faith in someone, especially someone who happens to be your spouse, is a must, because having faith shows that you have trust in your partner’s ability, and without that trust, it’s easy to interfere with what they are doing or do something rash, such as killing yourself, that you might regret later. Take King Aegeus, from another Greek myth, as an example; he threw himself off a cliff after seeing that the ship that was supposed to return with his son, Theseus, did not hoist the right flag which was supposed to signify that Theseus had survived. Aegeus immediately killed himself in vain, demonstrating a lack of faith in his son. It turns out that Theseus had indeed survived and the crew had simply forgotten to put up the right flag. In retrospect, King Aegeus’s lack of faith and impetuous reaction led to his unnecessary death. Without a doubt, you can see why having faith in someone or something can be so crucial, and even life-saving in some extreme cases. Penelope shows a sizable amount of faith in Odysseus. Her mood throughout the story is rather resistant and stubborn when it comes to her husband. She always manages to avoid the possibility that Odysseus may never return. She acts as if Odysseus is guaranteed to return, even though no one else believes it. She even predicts developments that happen later in the story with unfathomable accuracy. In Book 16, Penelope says that she wishes that “Odysseus would come now among the suitors” and that “they would all find that death was quick” (Homer 256). Later, Odysseus happens to return, and the suitors happen to be slaughtered quickly, just like Penelope unknowingly prophesies, making her look like a genius. Although Penelope is not supposed to have any knowledge of Odysseus’s travels, it is almost as if she actually does know what’s going on, prompting us to wonder exactly what the extent of Penelope’s knowledge is. Penelope’s belief in Odysseus and his return is nothing short of inexplicable, and not to mention, miraculous....
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