I re-read The Penelopiad today after listening to Jill Fellows lecture on it and came to realize how much I’d missed in my initial readings. The length of the work is deceptive, and is not representative of its density; next time, I will take notes while reading!
Let me just briefly introduce myself; I am quite embarrassed as I’ve just remembered that I never introduced myself on the blog! I am originally from Taiwan, but have spent the bulk of my life (12 years, to be exact,) in Singapore. I moved to Richmond, BC around three years ago and currently live on campus.
More importantly, The Penelopiad.
It left me intensely sad.
The Penelope here is modern, upbeat, quotidian; she narrates her stories with a wit and sarcasm that belie the tragic smallness of her mortal life. Yet the words one remembers her speaking after leaving the book are those that betray her vulnerability-her accounts of her parents, most obviously, but also the detachment with which she speaks of her maids. Penelope modifies that story constantly-it is as if she is afraid to delve too deep into that part of The Odyssey, and her own passive role in their deaths.
The Maids, meanwhile, are non-apologetic, forthright. They do not seem to care much about the way in which their narratives will be received-but the very fact that they weave themselves in so constantly, interrupting Penelope and rectifying her accounts suggest that they are, in fact, highly invested in their legacy. Their tragedy is amplified in The Penelopiad when set alongside Penelope’s own accounts; the bitter darkness of their lives is only here given a space-a space which they make full use of.