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Penelope's Despair

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Jason Zhang

on 25 September 2013

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Transcript of Penelope's Despair

What The Bow Represents
The bow and arrow in Penelope's Despair is the delay to face her husband.
It is a metaphor for how we try to avoid our problems as much as we can.
We set up walls so that we do not have to deal with our issues face to face.
In Penelope's case, she does not want to go back to the life she had before with her husband
She knows it is him but still tries to avoid it by having the activity of stringing his bow and arrow

HOW THE POEM AND MYTH RELATE

The poem is a direct adaptation of the myth as it is written quite literally and true to the story. Where it differs though is based on how one can interpret this adaptation of story. How the author uses the literal form of this myth to provide a message. The poem uses the myth as a metaphor to get a deeper meaning across and put light to a truth that was found in the myth and can be found in life
Meaning

The meaning of this poem is that you don't truly know what you want until its gone. Penelope though that all she wanted was Odysseus. When she finally has him it turns out that she actually enjoyed being free,and all the attention from the suitors. Now that Odysseus was back Penelope could no longer get the all that glamor from the many suitors . The poem also shines light on the idea of disappointment. Penelope had built up this image of Odysseus, and when he came back in the rugged state he was in all her anticipation collapsed over her. Penelope's high expectations were not met.

Theme: What you think you might want may end up being different than what you truly desire. New experiences can also change your attitude towards different situations. Penelope had waited a lot of time for the return of Odysseus but when he eventually returned she realized that it wasn't what she wanted anymore. The new experience of so many suitors wanting her made her realize that she had craved the attention far more than she had Odysseus.

Tone: the tone of the poem is despair, anxiety, and tension. All the emotions described point to the feeling that Penelope feels hopeless and trapped. She feels anxious at the thought of having to go back to her previous life. She knows she has the duty to return to Odysseus but she is unhappy about it.The tone of the poem clearly portays the author's thoughts and emotions on these feeling as he understands them by demonstrating his mood with choosing this tone.These feelings have clearly been felt in his life and he has put light on them through the voice of Penelope and her struggles.

Technique: The author paints an incredibly dark, emotional story through his use of detail and how he used his words. He described all the events very literally so the reader knows what is happening inside Penelope's head and in the outside world. All of this done in a very clear form but the message is conveyed through all the symbolism he uses. These are things such as comparing Penelope's feelings to the shadow that looks like a cage. Also, he says " she looked closely at the slaughtered suitors on the floor as if looking at her own dead desires" This is a very direct metaphor that states that she liked the attention she was being given by all these suitors. They were her "desires" that she can never again obtain because they are "dead." As well, we can tell the return of Odysseus is a negative situation for Penelope by the way he portrays Odysseus. He says "Was it for him she wasted twenty years awaiting and dreaming? Was it for this wretched stranger, soaked in blood, with his white beard? " The poet is saying that Penelope is clearly disappointed in who Odysseus has become and what the war did to him.
Penelope's Despair

Yiannis Ritsos

Not that she didn't recognize him in the dim light of the fire;
it wasn't that he was disguised, wearing rags like a beggar.
No. There were clear signs:
the scar on the knee-cap, his strength, the cunning look.
Frightened, leaning against the wall, she sought for some excuse,
a delay, to avoid answering so as not to give herself up.
Was it for him she ahd wasted twenty years waiting and reaming?
Was it for this wretched stranger, soaked in blood, with his white beard?
She fell speechless on a chair.
She looked closely at the slaughtered suitors on the floor
as if looking at her own dead desires
and she said 'welcome'
her voice sounding to her as if coming from a distance, as if belonging to
someone else.
Her loom in the corner cast shadows across the ceiling like a cage,
the birds she had woven with bright red threads among green leaves suddenly turned gray and black
flying low on her flat sky.
What Happened in the poem?

She was waiting for her husband Odysseus to come home.
However, Odysseus was disguised as a beggar.
But Penelope recognized him because of the scar on the knee-cap, his strength and cunning look.
Penelope was frightened of his husband.
She wasn't sure that this is worth twenty years of waiting and the effort she made to hold off the suitors.
She realizes that the dead suitors mirror her own desires, dead desires.
She said 'welcome' in a strange and cold voice that didn't sound like her own.
She felt trapped by Odysseus.
Title Analysis

The title is really quite literal and true to the meaning of the poem and the myth itself
The poem quite literally portrays Penelope's despair as it is phrased in the title
Myth

Penelope was the wife of Odysseus, king of Ithica. One day Odysseus left to go battle in Troy; leaving Penelope and their son. While Odysseus was away he had to battle the Cyclops, the six headed monster, and even Poseidon.

Since Odysseus was away for so long, many people had pressured Penelope into finding a new husband. She did now want this. So Penelope told all the suitors to complete a red shroud for Odysseus' father. Then every night Penelope would undo all the work that was done the day before.

Finally twenty years later Odysseus had finally returned home. He had disguised himself as a beggar, and asked to participate in the suitor's contest. Penelope declared that she would marry who every could string Odysseus's bow. Straight away he strung the bow and killed all of the suitors. Penelope thought that he was a god, but she tested this by asking her servant to move their great bed that Odysseus built himself. Odysseus leaped to his feet, reminding her that it was impossible to move the bed because one of it was constructed around a living olive tree. Realizing that her husband has returned, she embraced him and lived happily together into a great old age.
Penelope's Despair
Penelope's Despair

Yannis Ritsos

Not that she didn't recognize him in the dim light of the fire;
it wasn't that he was disguised, wearing rags like a beggar.
No. There were clear signs:
the scar on the knee-cap, his strength, the cunning look.
Frightened, leaning against the wall, she sought for some excuse,
a delay, to avoid answering so as not to give herself up.
Was it for him she had wasted twenty years awaiting and dreaming?
Was it for this wretched stranger, soaked in blood, with his white beard?
She fell speechless on the chair.
She looked closely at the slaughtered suitors on the floor
as if looking at her own dead desires
and she said 'welcome'
her voice sounding to her as if coming from a distance, as if belonging to
someone else.
Her loom in the corner cast shadows across the ceiling like a cage,
the birds she had woven with bright red threads among green leaves
suddenly turned gray and black
flying low on her flat sky.
THE AUTHOR'S LIFE

Yannis Ritsoso was born in Monemvasia, Greece on May 1, 1909
He later died in Athens, Greece on November 11, 1990
His mother and eldest brother died at a young age while his father suffered from mental disease
His family suffered financial ruin as a result of these sicknesses
Yannis Ritsos himself was confined to a sanitarium for tubercolosis from 1927-1931
Yannis Ritsos joined the Communist Party of Greece in 1931
Many of his works were political in nature he made many political enemies
In WWII he became member of the National Liberation Front and wrote several poems for the resistance
In the Civil War of 1946-1949 he was arrested and spent 4 years in prison camps
In 1967 when army colonels took over Greece he was deported and placed under house arrest until 1970
His poetry was banned for his left wing beliefs several times in Greece

Since his life was very grim, this poem took on that mood
Penelope feels very trapped in this poem as a result of the author having spent many years in prison camps
Full transcript