Where does Homer show in the book Penelope's loyalty to Odysseus and how does this help Odysseus in The Odyssey?I'm trying to show how Penelope's loyalty helps bring Odysseus home.

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although The Odyssey is, of course, primarily about Odysseus's heroic wanderings, Penelope goes on a journey of her own without leaving the confines of home, hearth and distaff. She displays truly heroic loyalty to her husband as she fends off the insistent, unwanted advances of her multiple suitors. She has been apart from Odysseus for twenty years, ravaged by grief and worry. She mourns for him as if he were dead and cannot get to sleep without the aid of Athena.

Penelope's loyalty is not just to her husband, but also to her various social roles as queen and mother. Amidst her unbearable sense of loss and constantly having to fight off the attentions of suitors, she still has to maintain Odysseus's estate and provide a good upbringing for Telemachus, one in keeping with his elevated social status.

Her loyalty is inextricably linked with her cunning. Just like her crafty husband, Penelope displays incredible ingenuity and guile in devising tricky little plans that will hold off the suitors for as long as possible. She holds out to them the distant prospect of marriage by weaving a burial shroud for Odysseus. When the shroud is finished she'll be free to marry again. But each night she secretly unravels the shroud to delay its completion.

Penelope has still more tricks up her sleeve. She devises a series of challenges to test the suitors' mettle. The most famous of these is when she invites the suitors to string Odysseus's bow and fire it through a string of axes. Not only is Penelope showing great loyalty to Odysseus by setting this task, she also knows that only he will be able to accomplish this feat, enabling her to discover his true identity. She pulls the same trick one last time when she asks Eurycleia to move the bed, wrought into a giant olive tree trunk by Odysseus himself. Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, immediately protests; he knows that the bed cannot be moved. And so he reveals his true identity, reconciled at long last with his wife. Penelope's own odyssey has now come to an end, and her loyalty has been rewarded with a heart-felt reunion with her heroic husband.

hilahmarca eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Penelope's loyalty to Odysseus can be seen throughout the epic poem. She remains a devoted wife to her husband. She is the epitome of a devoted wife. Examples of this can be seen in her creative ways of putting off the many suitors who've taken over her house in Ithaca. In Odysseus' absence, many suitors have taken over her house wanting to marry her so they can inherit Odysseus' kingdom and all that comes with it. Penelope wants nothing to do with them. She still lovers her husband and believes he is alive and will return home. She tells the suitors that she is weaving a shroud for Odysseus' dead father Laertes. She tell them that when she finishes the shroud, she will marry one of them. However, what she weaves during the day, she unweaves at night hoping to buy herself some time until Odysseus comes home. When the suitors find out about her plan, she must come up with another one. She tells the suitors that whichever one can string Odysseus' bow and shoot an arrow through 12 ax-helve sockets will win her hand in marriage. However, what the suitors do not know that Penelope does know is that only Odysseus himself can accomplish this feat. Again, she is hoping to buy herself some time until Odysseus can come home and reclaim his kingdom.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several places throughout the Odyssey where Penelope shows herself to be a loyal wife to Odysseus. Most obviously is her deriving numerous stratagems to allow her to refuse to marry one of the suitors, the most clever being weaving during the day and undoing her weaving at night. She has told the suitors that she will choose one of them when she has finished weaving the shroud for burial of Laertes, but by undoing the weaving she guarantees that she will not complete it (Book 2). She also displays loyalty in questioning travelers (including Odysseus himself disguised as a beggar) to find news of her husband. 

Odysseus' belief in Penelope's loyalty motivates him on his travels, including stiffening his resolve to leave Calypso and Circe, but this belief, although it proves correct, is not based on any actual communication with Penelope. Instead, rather than Penelope actively helping Odysseus in his travels (something she cannot do), her main function is to ensure that he has a home to which to return and to serve symbolically as a motivating force on his journey.

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The Odyssey

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