Penelope's Courtship in the Odyssey

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Penelope
In Homer’s poem, The Odyssey, the protagonist’s mother is faced with a serious problem. Penelope, the mother of Telemachus, was left at home with her son when her husband, Odysseus, went off to fight in war. The war is long over and the two await the potential homecoming of Odysseus, whose whereabouts are unknown. The lack of a father figure in the oikos, or home, causes a group of suitors to come and try and win over Penelope’s hand in marriage. Penelope, however, refuses to marry until she knows for sure that her husband is dead. Hearing the news from another does not give Penelope enough evidence in her mind, so she disregards all news as rumors. Even when Athena tells Telemachus that Odysseus is alive, what is different about this news from anyone else’s news? The suitors eat and drink as much as they please out of Odysseus’ home, and all the while court Penelope.

It is customary for women of the time to be at the home of their father if they wish to marry. Suitors would then come to the home with gifts for the father. The father would then give his daughter’s hand in marriage to a suitor. In Penelope’s case, she is not at home with her father, so she would have to leave her home to be courted properly. Antinous advises Telemachus at a city meeting to “Send your mother away with orders to marry whichever man her father likes best”(2:123-124). Telemachus responds by saying that he will not send his mother away as it could lead to even more problems. The suitors, however, in Telemachus’ eyes, fear going to Penelope’s father’s home and would rather enjoy all the pleasures they receive at Odysseus’ house. With Penelope staying in her own home, it poses the problem of whom, then, if anyone, has the power to marry her away. Odysseus left his good friend Mentor in charge of his home, but Mentor seems to not have done his job by allowing the suitors to come freely. Next possibility is Telemachus. Telemachus, enraged at the suitors begins to finally...
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