The Role of Penelope in The Odyssey Essay

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The Role of Penelope in The Odyssey

The character of Penelope in Homer's Odyssey reflects the faithful wife who waits twenty years for the arrival of her husband. Only a strong woman could sustain the stress, anxiety and confusion resulting from the chaos of a palace with a missing king whose fate is unknown. Her responsibilities and commitments toward the man she loves are particularly difficult to keep, under the strain of the situation. Although she does not actively pursue an effort to find him, her participation in the success of Odysseus' homecoming can be seen in her efforts to defend and protect the heritage, reputation and the House of Odysseus in his absence. As Odysseus withstands his trial, Penelope withstands her
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Also in book 6 we have a reinforcement of the standard functions of the woman and the man. Nausikaa's mother is with her female attendants, weaving clothes. Nausikaa's father is shown on his way to the council with other male officials (line 50). This same distinction of roles is often referred to in the whole poem. Telemachos often tells his mother, as in book 1 line 356, to go back to her distaff, while he was to attend political councils:
"Go therefore back in the house and take up your own work, the loom and distaff, and see to it that your handmates ply their work also; but the men must see a discussion, all men, but I most of all."

Penelope as usual performs this duty of the household faithfully.
All those duties however are a part of a larger goal, the goal keeping a good name for oneself in the eyes of others and the eyes of gods. We see finally in the Nausikaas short episode, the most important factor a woman must realize. Nausikaa directs Odysseus to the city but recommends that he goes by himself to avoid the scandal that might arise if she were seen bringing in a male stranger. It is Precisely this the best reputation which is presented in the Odyssey as the most valued goal in life. Penelope's responsibility is to develop and maintain the best reputation. As wife she must preserve the reputation of her husband, her family, and must maintain the system of the household. As a woman she must arise above…

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