The Penelopiad: Modernizing The Odyssey?

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The Penelopiad: Modernizing The Odyssey?

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1lorannen
jun 2, 2014, 12:00pm

Is it fair to apply modern standards of justice to archaic Greek culture? How does Atwood negotiate with or avoid this question, and how effectively?

I'm thinking particularly of the way she brought in the mock examination and trial near the end of the book. What was the point of this mechanism? Why did the Furies (from Sophocles' Oresteia) come into play?

2kiparsky
jun 3, 2014, 10:00am

I'm not sure I understand the question. Is "fair" part of the novelist's job description? Does Atwood have some duty of fairness towards Homer, or to Greek culture generally?

3matthewmason
Redigeret: jun 3, 2014, 1:22pm

>2 kiparsky: Atwood doesn't have to play by any set of rules of fairness in satire, especially concerning mythology; but she does bring up issues of fairness and justice, and uses examples that warrant some discussion.

I'll go right to the chapter to bring in some points and start discussion: p. 182 (Judge) "Also, I do not want to be guilty of an anachronism. Therefore I must dismiss this case." *chaos ensues*

As I recall from the Oresteia, the Furies invoke an older form of justice against Orestes—blood for blood—for the matricide of Clytemnestra. Aeschylus implies that before this trial, the status quo of justice was vengeful and not retributive (Clytemnestra was married to Agamemnon and axe murdered him—but only because beforehand he sacrificed her own daughter, Iphigenia, to sail for Troy, and also brought home an enslaved concubine, Cassandra, who also ends up murdered). Under the old system, Clytemnestra's actions are permitted, whereas Orestes' must be payed punished; the new form of justice inverts their equivocal guilt and breaks the bloody cycle.

Atwood has the maidens invoke the Furies in the chapter The Trial of Odysseus, explicitly linking the house of Odysseus to the house of Atreus, and the rape/execution of the maids to the deaths of Clytemnestra and Iphigenia. This is a witty thing to do, since it effectively gives a non-anachronistic criminality to rape of the maidens.

4DanaJean
jun 3, 2014, 6:14pm

All I know, I want to apply my idea of justice to what happen to the 12 maidens. It's hard not to.

5Felurian
jun 11, 2014, 1:23pm

If Atwood successfully takes us into the world of the story, then it's moot.

If she doesn't, then all's fair.

But wrangling with applications of justicular anachronisms can only be the reader's mental exercise, since, in a mythological or other sort of fantasy world, the systems are dictated by the story's needs.

And, to be certain, ask yourself if there really ARE any "systems of justice" in existence — or ever were. Legal systems, to be sure, but very little justice. True justice is an obsession of humankind, but lies in the realm of the gods, and most of them haven't seemed to be terribly concerned about it.

Unless it lies within their own self-interest.