I must confess that for years now I’ve referred to Homer’s The Odyssey for one reason and one reason only — to bring attention to Penelope’s banishment.
One of the first women to appear in the Western canon, she’s (of course) a mother. And her major function (of course) is to portray an exemplary loyal wife. Her husband’s been gone nearly twenty years. We’re talking decades — decades — of not just being a single mother but decades — decades — of celibacy. Seems to me Penelope might be about ready to pop by now, so are we really to believe she isn’t interested in any of those hundred-plus eligible bachelors just lounging around out there? I mean, they all want her and they want her bad. So bad they’ve set up camp and waited years at her very doorstep. Talk about convenience.
And yet, poor Penelope — or rather, loyal, virtuous, and true Penelope — refuses. She just isn’t ready to “move on.”
Meanwhile, poor homeless Odysseus . . .
[This essay was published in full by apt. It is available here.]