Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad (2005)
Link to the book on Worldcat
The Penelopiad rewrites Homer’s The Odyssey, in part from the perspective of Odysseus’ wife, Penelope. In this lecture, Jill Fellows discusses how Atwood’s Penelope responds to and questions Homer’s interpretation of her life, while the twelve hanged maids respond to and question Penelope’s own version of events. Dr. Fellows also briefly discusses the aquatic and naval imagery in the novel.
- Consider Penelope’s narration of her story. You may wish to examine the choice of the first person, the narrative voice, the use of modern idioms, etc.
- Why does Penelope tell her tale in prose?
- How do the maids’ chapters function in relation to The Penelopiad as a whole?
- Consider the ways in which The Penelopiad stays faithful to, and/or deviates from The Odyssey.
- Examine the representations of marriage and/or kinship in The Odyssey and The Penelopiad.
- “But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it” (Atwood 43). Discuss the use of aquatic imagery in The Penelopiad as a whole. You may wish to consider its relation to The Odyssey as well.
- “The difficulty is that I have no mouth through which I can speak. I cannot make myself understood, not in your world. . .” (Atwood 2). Consider the difficulty of speech for Penelope. You may, for example, compare her inability to speak to Abraham’s as discussed by Kierkegaard OR consider Penelope’s disembodiment.
- Does The Penelopiad as a whole support the interpretation offered in “The Chorus Line: An Anthropology Lecture”?