How Does Penelope Test Odysseus

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cybil's profile pic

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Penelope tells one of the maids to move the bed from the couple's bedroom for the "stranger" to sleep in. Only Odysseus, Penelope, and the maid know that the bed cannot be moved because Odysseus built it with an olive tree trunk as one of the bedsteads. Angrily, Odysseus demands to know how the bed can possibly be moved. With this question, Penelope knows this man truly is her husband who has finally returned. Her test shows she is a clever woman equal to Odysseus in cunning. 

kapokkid's profile pic

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One of the masterful ways that Homer makes the story so compelling is by building up so much tension along the way to a resolution. Odysseus has finally returned home and the reader expects a tearful reunion with Penelope but she is absolutely steadfast in her unwillingness to trust that it is in fact her husband under the rags. Even when Odysseus is restored to his handsome and well-dressed self, Penelope still doesn't trust.

And so we come to the moment that Odysseus, out of frustration, demands that a bed be brought to the great hall so that he can rest. Penelope sees a moment to test the man who claims to be Odysseus by suggesting that their own bed be brought for him. Odysseus launches into an outraged tirade at the suggestion and describes exactly why the bed (built out of an olive tree with roots still planted firmly in the ground) cannot be brought out to him.

Only then does Penelope trust that this man is in fact Odysseus and embraces him tearfully.

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