The Penelopiad By: Margaret Atwood
- Story of Odysseus’ return to home country, Ithaca, best known from Homer’s Odyssey.
- Absent from Ithaca for 20 years, half of those years said to be fighting in Trojan War, the other
half slaying monster, sleeping with goddess’s etc.
-Penelope daughter of Icarus of Sparta and cousin of Helen of Troy.
- Penelope thought to be faithful to Odysseus.
•Chapter 1 - A Low Art (pg. 1-4)
- Told from the perspective of Penelope after her death, she knows everything now that she is
dead (wishes she didn’t?).
- Arrive in the underworld with a sack filled with everything you have said, everything said
about you, and words you’ve heard.
- Penelope’s sack filled with words about her husband
- Odysseus used in tricks and lies on Penelope even though she was faithful.
- Penelope has waited through all the various renditions of The Odyssey? To finally tell her
story in The Penelopaid.
•Chapter 2- A Rope Jumping Rhyme ( pg. 5-6)
- Poem told from the perspective of the 12 maids killed by being hung by Odysseus after
•Chapter 3 – My Childhood (pg. 7-12)
- Mother was a Naiad, born semi-divine.
- Father, Icarus of Sparta, ordered Penelope to be thrown into the sea possibly because of
an oracle said she would weave her fathers shroud.
- Naiad’s element is water, purple-stripped duck saved her
- Nick named “duck” from then on.
- Weeping a handicap of the Naiad-born, spent a quarter of her life crying.
•Chapter 5 – Asphodel (pg. 15-22)
- “The gloomy halls of Hades”, Penelope in the underworld.
- The dead can go on “outings” by the sacrifice of an animal people can talk to whomever
they wish, through dreams, and being conjured by a magician.
- Magicians conjure up Helen rather the Penelope.
- Helen didn’t get punished when she died like most did for driving men mad in lust and
causing the destruction of Troy.
•Chapter 6 – My Marriage (pg. 23-38)
- Marriages were only for the important people.
- There were contests to see who would marry the women.
- Penelope not sure to this day why her father threw her into the ocean.
-Every time she sees him in the Asphodel (light part of the underworld) her father
- Sacrifice to the God of the sea??
- Odysseus was never expected to win Penelope’s hand in
- Contest was a race (varies in different places).
- Odysseus was one of Helen’s suitors but didn’t win the
- Odysseus cheated and one race.
- Penelope’s Uncle, Helen’s father, gave wine to competitors to slow them down, and gave
Odysseus a potion to make him fast.
- Helped Odysseus win as payment for ensuring the Helen had a peaceful
- Both Penelope and Odysseus described as being “CLEVER”.
•Chapter 7 – The Scar (pg.39-49)
- Wedding feast
- Penelope’s Naiad mother attended her wedding
- Odysseus tells Penelope to scream in pain to pretend to have had sex after their wedding
and then take the time to become friends.
- Odysseus’s grandfather claimed to be the son of Hermes, a God who cheated, stole, and
- Perhaps where Odysseus got these characteristics?
- He has a scar on his thigh, from a boar while retrieving gifts promised to him at birth from
-Penelope suspects that his grandfather had something to do with it since no one
else was injured.
- Penelope feels connection to Odysseus; both were almost destroyed in youth by family
- Odysseus takes Penelope away from Sparta to his homeland, Ithaca.