Penelope, Epic Heroine

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Penelope, Epic Heroine

During Ancient Greece, when women were seen as property, Penelope, Odysseus’ wife in The Odyssey, stands out as a woman beyond that claim. In Odysseus’ 20 year absence, she reigns over Ithaca, creatively staves off suitors, and raises a son, Telemachus, all while being faithful and devoted to him. Many of these obligations are not unlike what modern women grapple with. However, what sets Penelope apart is that she is accomplishing them at a time when women were seen as property and unable to have reigning duties. "The hero is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations” (Campbell). Because of Penelope’s success in the face of adversity, she is a true heroine. Although inundated with suitors, she maintains her heroic loyalty to Odysseus in his absence. Contrastingly, her cousin, Clytemnestra, is unfaithful to her husband, Agamemnon, while he is fighting the Trojan War alongside Odysseus. Penelope knows that it is not conventional or acceptable to remain unmarried if one’s husband is considered dead, but her deep love and devotion to Odysseus keeps her inventing new means to avoid marrying any of the suitors. Because she is born to a prince and holds the royalty title, and anyone she marries will become King of Ithaca. For that reason, Penelope does not have to fear the same fate as Andromache, Hector’s wife in The Iliad. Hector was of royal blood, but Andromache was not; therefore, upon his death, she became someone else’s concubine. Penelope’s reason for not marrying is not for reasons of survival, but rather, for her absolute commitment to Odysseus. Instead of the brawn of the men heroes of that time, Penelope uses wits and brains to establish herself as a heroine. Penelope’s “heroism demands the courage to go unrecognized as a hero” (Heitman). Her weapon to fight off…...

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