The word “grief” shares many similarities to “sadness”, but just as both terms are used to describe a state of unhappiness, to be grieving carries with it connotations of a deeper-rooted pain stemming from the mourning of a loss, or an emotional loyalty to the subject of the grief. The characters in the Greek epic The Odyssey are no strangers to grief, as it is a word woven throughout the text both physically and as an underlying theme. Just as the heroes of the Trojan War long for home, the women they left behind pine for their missing loved ones through constant articulation of grief, bouts of weeping, and sometimes even the need of literal unconsciousness in order to forget their pain. For the wives of The Odyssey, the amount of grief they exhibit for the absence of their husbands is central to how others perceive the virtue of their disposition, and is also a basis for the kinds of defining characteristics they will develop. As one of the most complex female characters in the epic, Penelope, the loyal wife of Odysseus, is also the epitome of a grieving wife. She is introduced to the readers, breaking down at the first mention of the Achaeans heroes:
Suddenly, dissolving in tears… she cried out, “Phemius!
... the unendurable song that always renders the heart inside me… the unforgettable grief, it wounds me most of all!...” (I, 386-394)
The dramatic language used to describe this scene makes it seem like Odysseus had only just left home when in reality he’s been gone…