Plato, Homer, & Atwood

The focus on the concept of justice and frequent references to Homer in Plato’s Republic made me think about justice as portrayed in The Odyssey and The Penelopiad. In The Odyssey, the concept of “justice” is rather obscure; humans do not appear to have much agency and the concept of “fate” and often biased discretion of the Gods are given the most weight in terms of the successes and failures of each character. For example, Odysseus, the admirable hero of Homer’s tale, is repeatedly described as being extremely “unlucky”. The association that is made between Odysseus’ difficulty in returning to his home and duties as a king and father implies that the Gods often act in brash and childlike way without much thought to what is “just”. In terms of justice in The Penelopiad, the maids do not make it specifically clear how they want justice to be served but the implication is that Odysseus and Telemachus should have to pay for their hanging. In Republic, Socrates says he dissaproves of the negative protrayal of the Gods and lack of assertion by humans in The Odyssey. This being said, I don’t think Socrates would necessarily agree with the maids in The Penelopiad either. Are the maids not stepping outside the realm of their roles as servants by opposing their masters? Furthermore, to reference Professor Hendricks’s lecture from today, I thought about the different rankings of lives and how they could apply to the characters within The Odyssey and The Penelopiad. Is Penelople in what Socrates says most people believe to be the “best” category as someone who is unjust but appears just? Seeing as Penelope is haunted by guilt and the maids are haunted by vengeance I would say that Socrates’ argument appears to be true; it is best to be just AND appear just. But who, in either of these works, exhibits both traits?

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