Sexual Fables

This article accompanies the fable
Homer's Women

Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad

Penelope – did she want him back? Is marriage an outdated institution, better suited to the days when people died in their 40s and 50s after raising children?  With longer life-spans do we become bored with our partners and spouses, with less and less to say to each other, shorter fuses and no romance?  The Odyssey permits that interpretation today.

Margaret Atwood exploits it...  After writing from Circe’s point of view when she was somewhat younger, she turned to Penelope later in life in The Penelopiad (2002).  Penelope opts to stay with Odysseus but she is under no illusions – her husband is a liar and a drunk - but then Penelope herself doesn’t emerge from the story in an unflattering light either.  She is self-pitying and haunted by the unjust murder of her 12 maids.  She blames Helen of Troy for everything and Helen actually comes across as more interesting than she does.


So we stay together because - well - what's the choice? No wonder that eye is bleeding...

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