The Penelopiad "A Restless Liar"

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A Restless Liar
The Penelopiad, written by Margaret Atwood, is a story based on Penelope’s life experiences. Penelope, Queen of Ithaca, provides this information while in Hades, but speaks as if she were from modern times. Most of The Penelopiad is about Penelope’s life; however there is another major story line. The maids that assist Penelope in her everyday work also voice their hardships they are subjected to throughout their lives. The reader gets both Penelope’s and her maid’s points of view on Penelope’s actions in her husbands absence. These points of view differ depending on who the narrator is. The events in the story are based on The Odyssey, written by Homer in 800 B.C. The reader is faced with the choice of who is the most reliable narrator. Atwood makes it seem the more reliable narrator is Penelope’s maids.

Penelope is daughter to King Icarius and a Naiad. Her relationships with her parents were stressful to say the least. For the better part of her childhood she was afraid her father would kill her at any moment. This fear impacted her ability to form relationships greatly. “There I would be, strolling hand in hand with my apparently fond male parent along a cliff edge or a river bank or a parapet, and the thought would occur to me that he might suddenly decide to shove me over or bash me to death with a rock.” (Atwood 10) Her mother being a Naiad, a water nymph, spent most of her time in the swimming and talking to sea creatures so they had limited communications. She had a beautiful cousin named Helen, who was hatched in a golden egg by a swan. It was to Helen that Atwood compared Penelope when referring to the story of the ugly duckling. Penelope and Helen’s relationship was strained because Penelope was jealous of Helen. Helen often referred to her cousin as “little cousin ducky.” (153) Living this isolated life from her family she was instilled with independence and self-sufficiency.

The maids did not get to choose their life style....