The Penelopiad- I Don’t Know How to React

Atwood’s interpretation of Penelope is quite diverse. Originally, I had assumed the book would portray an air of refinement and heroism when discussing Penelope. However, I found that the story mainly focused on the just how young and naive Penelope was during her early life with Odysseus. I didn’t expect a witty, lonely young girl as the main portrayal of such a cunning beautiful queen. Penelope’s relationship with Telemachus demonstrates just how limited the Odyssey was. I hadn’t noticed that I was missing out on character identities when I was submerged in understanding all of what Homer was trying to say. Now I find myself rereading passages of the Odyssey just to look for clues or inklings of what the character relationship may be between what is stated as a fact and what seems to either be glossed over or completely missing.

The twelve maids. What can I say about them? They were villainous and yet so pitied by me that I couldn’t decide whether i hated them or loved them. I originally didn’t really understand the purpose of having them voiced in the book, although i did find them amusing and comical at certain points. After a while i no longer saw Penelope as a the main protagonist, she began to seem villainous and cruel. How is it that you can treat the rape of young women, who you claim to be dear to you as your own daughters, as something of minor importance? Oh, yes that’s right, it was bound to happen. That little line killed any sympathy i may have had for Penelope. I fact it almost seems like she doesn’t even care that her ‘lovely girls’ were brutally murdered by her son and husband, in favour of not outing herself to Odysseus.

Overall I thought the book was unusual and relished in reading a different side of ‘The Odyssey’. Although my impression of Odysseus and Penelope shouldn’t be swayed, as the book is a retelling of the legend and not a credible document of the myth in ancient Greece, I still find the story caused me to revisit the Odyssey in a different light.

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