Twelve Maids: Odyssey and Penelopiad

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Olivia Barone
Mr. Harris
Mythology, Period 4
19 December 2011
The Untold Story of Penelope’s Maids
As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story. This even applies to the epic novel, Homer's, The Odyssey. While the storyline may do an outstanding job of glorifying Odysseus' heroism, it fails to give proper insight into the victims of his revenge. Margaret Atwood's, The Penelopiad gives an alternate view of what was going on in Ithaca during Odysseus' 20 year absence. This essay will specifically focus on the maids who were hanged because of what was thought to be disloyalty. The maids were wrongly accused, and quite possibly framed to cover up for Penelope's infedelity, as Atwood proposed. Therefore, The Odyssey fails to adequately tell the story of the maids. Atwood, however, recognized this injustice and wrote The Penelopiad to better explain the maids' point of view and how gender, as well as class differences could have played a role in their actions.

In The Odyssey, the twelve maids are portrayed as being disloyal to both Odysseus and Penelope because it was discovered that they were sleeping with the suitors. Telemachus blatantly says to them, “You sluts- the suitors' whores!” (453). He says this shortly before hanging them. The story fails to, however, give any reasoning as to why the maids were sleeping with the suitors. Also, it fails to acknowledge the fact that perhaps the maids had every right to sleep with whomever they pleased. Because of The Odyssey's setting, the maids actions were seen as a direct reflection of their master. Without Odysseus' or Penelope's blessing, the maids were not allowed to do much of anything, especially sleep with Penelope's suitors. This demonstrates how this time period made women, especially low-class women, out to be more objects than people.

While The Odyssey mainly focuses on Odysseus' hero's journey, The Penelopiad further explains what was going on in Ithaca while he was gone. It also does a good...
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