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Ways In Which Margaret Atwood's "The Penelopiad" Subverts The Grand Narrative And Reflects Feminist Thinking.

1023 words - 4 pages

The Penelopiad Essay"We had no voice, we had no name, we had no choice, we had one face." (p195)The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood is a contemporary twist to the ancient myth of Homer's 'The Odyssey'. The novel is set in Ancient Greek society where particularly women and lower-classes were severely subjugated and silenced. Atwood critically evaluates this patriarchal world through eyes of women. The timeless story of Odysseus, overflowing with phallocentric ideals and the traditional patriarchal discourse, is undercut to give voice to Odysseus' wife Penelope and her twelve maids - characters who rarely receive mention in Ancient Greek literature. With Penelope and her maids now playing the protagonists, Homer's story has been revised to declare those who have been overlooked by history. The Penelopiad has successfully empowered those who were once marginalized through the employment of two literary agents: the subversion of the Grand Narrative and integrating Feminist Theory into literature. This essay will explore and evaluate the literary devices Atwood has used to effectively subvert Homer's 'The Odyssey' into a modern, feminist critique of those who are suppressed in a patriarchal context.The 'Grand Narrative' is considered to be an overarching story which pertains to the widely held perceptions of society - it explains and justifies the beliefs of that context. The subversion of this Grand Narrative results in the undercutting of the greater perspective and presenting it in an unusual manner. The Penelopiad is thus a subversion of Homer's narrative 'The Odyssey' and Atwood revamps his story in several ways.The perspective in which the story is narrated has shifted from the phallocentric heroes of The Odyssey to the domestic personal perspective of Penelope and her maids. The reader is thus exposed to an alternate perspective which is seldom heard in both society and literature. Penelope refers to Homer's "official version" a "stick to beat other women with" as it provides an anti-feminist ideal of female modesty, patience and constant faithfulness to their husband, their lord and life.The maids, angered by their tragic and unjust deaths, are eager to give their opinion of events, often offending characters of high status throughout the novel. Through death, Penelope and her maids have escaped the social conventions which previously smothered their voice and importance, and are free to express themselves without retribution.Atwood has reshaped the structure of Homer's chronological mythical narrative into a story intertwined with interludes by the Maids and Penelope's thoughts in the afterlife. As a tribute to Ancient Greek Drama, Atwood uses the twelve maids as a chorus strategically placed at pivotal points of the novel, for the maids to comment on. The chorus is a structural tool in which Atwood gives the silenced maids an opportunity to voice their opinions. The frequently critical and mocking nature of the maids further undermines the...

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