In Odysseus struggles to come back home while

In
an epic poem, The Odyssey, by Homer, Odysseus
struggles to come back home while his wife, Penelope, faces barbarous suitors
who plague her house to court her for the marriage in order to claim the kingship
of Ithaca. With an absence of the man of the household and a son who is not old
enough to rule over the country and handle the domestic complications, Penelope
endeavors to keep the household orderly and civilized. In order to prevent further
chaos in the household, Penelope maintains her role as the Queen of Ithaca and
Odysseus’s wife through her loyalty and cunning.

For
a woman who does not know when her man will return home, Penelope is extremely
strong to keep hope and wait for her husband; thus, her unwavering loyalty to her husband keeps the
household stable. She remains faithful in the absence of her husband,
unlike Clytemnestra. Agamemnon’s wife, Clytemnestra,
commits adultery when Agamemnon leaves to fight in the war of Trojan. She even
plots against her husband and kills him when he comes back home. Her course of
action consequently leads to the collapse of Agamemnon’s
household with the death of the man of the household and the disappearance of
the heir of the throne. However, Penelope’s loyalty to Odysseus is never
questioned. For example, when she sees a beggar transforming to Odysseus, she
decides to test him about the bedroom built around the olive tree branches,
which is the information that only they know, in order to assure that the man
in front of her is truly Odysseus. After hearing Penelope telling the maid to
move the bed, Odysseus becomes furious and retorts that the bed cannot be moved
by anyone as he builds it with his own hand. Upon hearing that answer, which
confirms that he is truly the man she has been waiting for 20 years, she
answers, “In my heart of hearts I always cringe with fear some fraud might
come, beguile me with his talk; the world is full with sorts, cunning one who
plot their own dark ends” (Homer, Odyssey,
23.213-216). Her words demonstrate how she is so frightened by a thought of her
betraying Odysseus. She takes cautions in everything she does to guarantee that
her household does not belong to any man other than Odysseus. The household
defines Penelope who she is and her rank in the house, and with its
destruction, Penelope would lose her identity as Odysseus’s wife; hence, she protects
it by staying faithful. Penelope fulfills her role of Odysseus’s wife with her
courage to remain loyal and determination to keep the household in order.

On
the other hand, one may argue that Penelope is weak; she lets the suitors
exploit all resources of her household and that all she does is weeping and
grieving over her husband. However, for a woman in Homer’s society, who belongs
to either her father and her husband, she is the head of the household for 20
years in the absence of Odysseus. She does not preserve peace in the household,
but she takes actions to prevent the destruction of ranks of the household by delaying
her marriage so that when Odysseus come back home, he can reclaim the kingship,
or when Telemachus is old enough, he can take the throne which is rightfully
his. In the position where women have no power, she uses her intellectual strength
to control the suitors. Penelope promises the suitors that she will choose one
of them to marry after she finishes weaving the shroud for Laertes because it
is shameful if she does not do anything for her father-in-law. The suitors eagerly
comply to her request without knowing what Penelope plans to do. After discovering
Penelope’s deception, the suitors complain, “Her very words, and despite our pride and passion we
believed her. So by day she’d weave at her great and growing web- by night, by
the light of torches set beside her, she would unravel all she’d done. Three
who years, she deceived us blind, seduced us with this scheme” (Homer, Odysseus, 2. 101- 106). With one simple
promise, she is able to keep the suitors in control for three years, which
demonstrates her intellectual strength. Penelope, a woman who perceives to be a
weak character and unable to keep the household together, manages to assert dominance
over 108 men with words alone. She shows wisdom in personal management in
private household, satisfying the role of head of the household, through
tactics.

Moreover, Penelope continues to
assert control as the head of the household even when she has no way to escape
the marriage as she is pressured by her parents. Instead of choosing one of the
suitors as a surrender, she proposes them with a challenge. She announces, “The
hand that can string his bow with greatest ease, that shoots an arrow clean
through all twelve axes- he is the man I follow…” (Homer, The Odyssey, 21.

75-77) Penelope explains that she will marry the man who can strings the bow,
and it is a clever way to deceiving the suitors as the only person who has the
ability to string the bow and shoots an arrow is Odysseus. Once again, she uses
a cunning skillful act to ensure that marriage with her is impossible. Her
action displays her effort to retain her identity of Odysseus’ wife although
she has no knowledge of when her husband will come back home. In the society where men have power
over women, Penelope successfully chooses the fate she wants with unpredictable
methods and uphold her status against villainous suitors.

Overall,
Penelope appears to be weak, but she manages to use her vulnerability to her
grief and emotions as her advantage, which consequently makes her an empowering
character. While Odysseus is a complicated hero in his voyage to return home,
Penelope is considered as a skilled tactician in her private household. She
never succumbs to any atrocious suitors or to any men, and she stays faithful
to her husband in order to prevent annihilation of the order of the household. Penelope’s
perseverance to fulfill the role of Odysseus’ wife and head of the household
through cunning ultimately allows Odysseus to have a home to come back to.