The reader’s response to a text is influenced by his or her understanding of the author’s contextual influences and the time during which the text was composed. Context plays a crucial role in establishing plot and how meaning is shaped throughout the text. By analysing The Odyssey and The Penelopiad, the reader gains a powerful insight into the Ancient Greek period that is central to Odysseus’s plot. Through a close study of both these texts, composed millennia apart, much can be learnt about the evolution of society and its perception, as well as those values that have been retained. Homer’s The Odyssey was composed during Archaic Greece, the period of large-scale technological development, and the shift from a monarchical to democratic political system, that spanned 800-500 BCE. In contrast, Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad was written in 2005, almost three thousand years after the construction of Homer’s epic.
Developments in culture and society reveal the differences that existed during Ancient Greece, and the evolution of peoples towards today’s modern society. An issue of particular importance is the attitude towards gender equality and treatment of women in society. Margaret Atwood is recognised for her exploration of gender issues as an integral part of her literature, especially as the novella was written after the climax of 1960s feminist movement. The movement sought to eradicate gender equality from society and draw the distinction between sex and gender. This is explored in The Penelopiad, where attitudes towards gender equality and relationships is highlighted throughout many experts of the novella. In particular, the accepted process of arranged marriages demonstrates the powerlessness of women during this time. As Penelope studies all her suitors, she states she is “trying to figure out who each was one…since it wasn’t up to me to choose my husband.” Penelope’s indifferent tone reflects her powerlessness in her state of affairs and accepts...
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