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“Penelope” by Dorothy Parker Essay

After embarking on the literary journey that is “The Odyssey”, I decided to tackle this poem by Dorothy Parker. Although short in length, the poem was deceptively challenging due to the unraveling of symbolism within the words. Embedded within the short sentences were insightful references to seemingly ordinary objects, such as the sea, the sun, and even the breeze. These descriptions also added to the simple beauty of the poem. I also had a chance to see from Penelope’s point of view and what she thought about Odysseus and his travels, something that does not commonly occur in “The Odyssey”.

The poem was filled with references to a journey even from the first few lines. There were many words that immediately made me think about a voyage one may take. For example, “pathway of the sun” (line 1) and “footsteps of the breeze” (line 2) made me think as though the sun and breeze were guides for an adventure, leading the way and showing where to go. Odysseus traveled “where the world and sky [were] one” (line 3). This shows unity between the Greek gods in the heavens and the god of water, Poseidon. The seas were also shown as “glittering” (line 5) and “silver” (line 4) displaying the beauty of the sea. I liked how Parker connected the Earth’s natural beauty to the treacherous yet exciting journey taken by Odysseus. It added another level to his trek that related him to the world he was exploring.

The next section showed Penelope’s ability to wait patiently for her true love – her husband Odysseus. Penelope is portrayed as a calm yet cunning woman within a few lines. She waits “at home, and [rocks]” (line 6) in her rocking chair, thus showing her patience. However, Penelope is also very wily as she uses her loom trick to deceive the suitors with an ambition of taking her hand in marriage. She says she will “snip [her] thread” (line 8), connecting to the loom trick.

She is also shown as being more independent as she plans to “bleach the linen for [her] bed” (line 9), a chore usually done by maids. The last line ends the poem very strongly. Penelope sounds a bit jealous as she states, “They will call him brave” (line 10). Is she jealous that she has had to do a lot of hard work while he has been gone, yet she receives no praise for it? I believe Parker put this in to show how Penelope just wants to be noticed and applauded for her handiwork. These actions shown by Penelope were extremely detailed and I loved being able to read the poem and visualize every part in my head.


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