Friday, September 19, 2008

Use Your Allusion: Penelope

Penelope is a key figure in Homer's Odyssey. Her husband Odysseus had been called away several years ago to fight in the Trojan War. They have a son together, Telemachus, who is with her. Because Odysseus has been gone for so long, many presume him to be dead. Penelope has numerous suitors who pester her day and night, wanting to marry her.

She comes up with several brilliant ways to delay them. One of which is that she claims that she cannot marry any of them until she finishes weaving a burial shroud for Odysseus' elderly father. This holds them off for three years, because every day she weaves on the shroud, but then every night, she unravels all the weaving that she had done that day. Eventually, her means of delaying them are discovered, and she is forced to come up with other ways.

At the end of the story, her husband returns home at first in secret, but then fights off the other suitors, in a display of his manliness involving stringing a bow that only he could.

Penelope is a great symbol of fidelity, as she refused to give up on her husband, and remained faithful to him. Penelope also makes a nice allusion when you speak of how she managed to delay her suitors by means of her weaving and unraveling the shroud.

Recently, a movie came out titled Penelope (2006) where Christina Ricci stars as a girl, born with a pig's snout, who has many potential suitors, but who has trouble finding one, because of her family's fear that she will be rejected because of her looks. She meets them secretly, behind a two-way mirror, trying to find a person she trusts enough to let see her face. Honestly, it was a great movie, that I thought communicated the importance of learning to love yourself, and not being so caught up in what society judges as beauty.

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