The Penelopiad: Understanding Penelope

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  • Topic: Odysseus, Penelope, The Penelopiad
  • Pages : 2 (817 words )
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  • Published : October 17, 2010
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Penelope establishes right away her clever nature and reveals other personality traits that begin to hinder our understanding of what really went on in The Penelopiad. However, focusing on a few key aspects of her account can help in understanding Penelope better as well as what she’s not revealing: the water motif introduced by her mother (43) and her feelings/relationship with her cousin Helen.

Penelope presents her conflict with Helen early on. Helen had fame and beauty, she stole the limelight at Penelope’s wedding, and the fact that there are numerous chapters with “Helen” in the title (including a chapter entitled “Helen Ruins My Life”) indicate a tremendous impact Helen had on Penelope’s life. The other vital element in understanding Penelope’s life, the water motif, goes hand in hand with Helen’s influence.

Penelope’s mother reminded her that she was like water and Penelope subtly makes references through her story that reference this analogy. She says that “[Odyssues’s father] Laertes [stuck] his oar in from time to time…”(71) in regards to ruling the kingdom and when bumping into Antinous, a suitor, (in the underworld) she said that his flirting “…[was] meant as a reproach, or so he intend[ed] it, but it [didn’t] cut any ice with me (99).” The first reference shows how she was able to flow around that oar/obstacle just as her mother advised. The second reference also subtly relates to this water motif. This reference is an example of how the suitors were not able to “freeze” her or manipulate her and she could continue to “flow” as she pleased. There are many more water references throughout the book; these are just some of the early ones that are great examples.

Helen’s impact and the water motif are important to pay attention to while acknowledging Penelope self-portrayal. In the first half of the book, Penelope shows herself as a very emotional yet tame person. She describes herself as clever, but it is not near as dominant Helen’s...
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