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I think that both Odysseus and Penelope have changed the most throughout this book and through the journeys that they took individually. In some ways I feel that as the time that they had not seen each other grew the more of their true qualities came out as they waited to be reunited with one another. There are times that I do not think that they actually changed but that Homer was able to show us a different side of each character due to different circumstances and pressures. I also feel that the fear of being reunited with the past and facing what used to be home and their normal lives is part of what made them change and grow as characters.

In the beginning Odysseus is strong, brave, and confident. He knows his abilities and that he and his men are capable of capturing Troy. When they set out he seems honorable and fearless and impatient for victory. As time goes on and the time between seeing his wife and being home gets longer and longer he seems to grow weaker but more humble. Also the more things that he experiences the more he realizes that nothing compares to what things are like at home in Ithaca and he develops this patience and respect for others. When he finally returns in his disguise he does not react as abruptly as I feel he would have in the beginning before his journey.

I feel that book 24 shows the biggest development of Odysseus. When he goes to meet his father and sees that he has aged a lot since the last time that they had been together. “Long- enduring Odysseus, catching sight of him now- a man worn down with years, his heart racked with sorrow- …Kiss and embrace his father …or probe him first and test him in every way?” (24.258) Here there is clearly a debate going on within Odysseus’s character as to if he should play a game and show his power or be vulnerable and honest with his father. I think that just the question of whether to probe or not being asked shows a lot. It shows that he has grown into another perspective. There is more than just one way to do any given thing. There are many ways to deal with thing and situations its not always just black and white or right and wrong. Here is sees that this is not the time to show his power over his father to play games but to console him and let him know that his son is home and alright.

As for Penelope who I felt was somewhat hidden behind Odysseus and all his power showed great strength. Not only getting along for all these years without her husband but by not caving into the suitors and for holding strong and loyal to her husband. She was no longer this weak and flighty women but someone who stood her ground and did not cave to other peoples wants and needs. In the beginning she seemed like the “behind the scenes housewife” but throughout all the time that he was away she became this very intelligent and wise, skillful and loyal women who waited for her husbands return.

In the Odyssey I think that Penelope shows her greatest amount of change when she  deals with the suitors. The way that she makes up reasons to not marry them because she wants answers about where her husband is and if he is alright or not. At one point she also tells them that she wants to wait until she has had a burial which is genius because that means she must wait until she has all the answers she needs and gives Odysseus a chance to come home. She uses her intelligence and cleverness to fool them and to get what she wants. She stands up for herself and what she deserves as well as she fights for her husband and her marriage. After such a long time and not knowing where Odysseus is or if he will ever return it may have been easier to just give into the suitors and let one of them take care of her, but instead she waits it out and does what is right for her.  I feel that before Odysseus left she would have taken the easy way and not fought for herself.

Odysseus and Penelope clearly change and open up as their journeys goes forward. Both of them change in ways that make them stand up for their families and defend themselves. Odysseus protects his father from more pain that was caused by Odysseus being gone for so long and him worrying about his well being. And Penelope fights for herself and her marriage against the suitors who just want her to leave Odysseus behind and remarry. I think that as the journey goes on and the characters go through more and more events and the time away from home grows there is almost a child like quality that comes out as they yearn for home and normalcy. This feeling of longing brings out a softer side to both characters which we had not yet seen. Both had been built up to be strong and respectable. Even Penelope who stood behind Odysseus had a sense of strength with her character. By the end all they want is to go back to how things once were.

20 Responses to “Courtney – On Odysseus and Penelope”

  1. khoneycutt says:

    Courtney,

    I think you are right to suggest that Odysseus mellows out, so to speak, over time. It may also be that he simply loses the ability to command effectively; his men are in open revolt by the time they are on Thrinacia (with the cattle of the Sun). Maybe his experiences throughout the Odyssey chasten him such that he is a different man by the time he reaches Ithaca.

    I think Penelope has changed, too, though I am not sure that she has shown more change than Odysseus. Her experiences, especially for the last few years, have largely been the same. I do think there is evidence in the text to back up your position, but should have appealed to it.

    I like a lot of the thoughts in this essay but you only reference the text a single time.

    KH

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