'Penelope' by Dorothy Parker

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Sunset RopeIn the pathway of the sun,In the footsteps of the breeze,
Where the world and sky are one,He shall ride the silver seas,He shall cut the glittering wave.
I shall sit at home, and rock;
Rise, to heed a neighbor's knock;
Brew my tea, and snip my thread;
Bleach the linen for my bed.They will call him brave.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Poetic Brilliance of Dorothy Parker's "Penelope"

As one of the most famous American writers of the 20th century, Dorothy Parker's literary prowess is not to be underestimated. Her poetry, in particular, has captivated audiences for decades, with themes ranging from love and loss to societal norms and women's rights. One of her most notable poems is "Penelope," a piece that offers a unique perspective on the mythological figure of the same name. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the nuances and brilliance of Parker's "Penelope" and uncover its underlying themes and messages.

Overview of "Penelope"

Before diving into the analysis, it is essential to summarize the poem's content. "Penelope" is a modern retelling of the story of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who waits patiently for her husband's return from war. The poem begins with a description of Penelope's beauty and her reputation as a faithful wife. However, the narrator then questions why Penelope would wait so long for a husband who may never come back. The poem then shifts to a more critical tone, with the narrator criticizing Penelope's passivity and lack of agency. The final lines of the poem are particularly poignant, as the narrator laments the wasted potential of such a remarkable woman.

The Role of Mythology in "Penelope"

One of the essential aspects of "Penelope" is its link to Greek mythology. The original story of Penelope is found in Homer's epic poem, "The Odyssey," where she is portrayed as the epitome of the faithful and patient wife. However, Parker's poem subverts this narrative by questioning the very essence of Penelope's loyalty. By juxtaposing her beauty and reputation with her inactivity, the poem suggests that Penelope's loyalty may be a facade, a societal expectation that she feels compelled to fulfill.

Furthermore, the poem's use of mythology extends beyond the figure of Penelope. The reference to "the gods" in the final lines of the poem highlights the role that religion and tradition play in shaping societal norms. The image of Penelope weaving and unraveling a shroud also carries mythological weight, as it references the story of the shroud that she weaved and unraveled every night as a ruse to delay her suitors. The weaving becomes a symbol of Penelope's passivity, as she is merely biding her time and not actively taking control of her life.

Feminism and Agency in "Penelope"

One of the most significant themes in "Penelope" is the subversion of traditional gender roles. Penelope is portrayed as a woman who is not content to sit and wait for her husband's return. The poem implies that she has the potential to do much more, but societal expectations and gender norms limit her. The line "what the gods intended her to be" is particularly telling, as it highlights the idea that women are often constrained by societal expectations of their gender.

The poem also critiques the notion of loyalty as a virtue for women. Parker implies that loyalty, in Penelope's case, is merely a way to keep her in her place and to prevent her from challenging societal norms. The final lines of the poem, "And they reach her a needle and thread, and she sits and sews and sings," are particularly poignant, as they suggest that Penelope's potential has been wasted. Instead of challenging the status quo or forging her path, she is resigned to a life of passivity and stitching.

The Role of Language and Style in "Penelope"

Another fascinating aspect of "Penelope" is its use of language and style. The poem is written in free verse, with no set rhyme or meter. This style of poetry emphasizes the content rather than the form and allows the words to stand on their own. The lack of structure is also symbolic of Penelope's lack of agency and the chaos that surrounds her life.

The language used in "Penelope" is also significant. The poem is written in a conversational tone, as if the narrator is speaking directly to the reader. This informal style is in stark contrast to the mythological subject matter, and it creates a sense of intimacy and immediacy. The use of colloquial language and slang also adds to the poem's modernity and subversion of traditional norms.

Conclusion: The Brilliance of Dorothy Parker's "Penelope"

In conclusion, "Penelope" is a brilliant poem that subverts traditional gender roles and mythological narratives. By challenging the idea of loyalty as a virtue for women, the poem critiques societal norms and expectations. The use of language and style further emphasizes the poem's modernity and subversion of traditional norms. Overall, "Penelope" is a testament to Dorothy Parker's literary prowess and her ability to create memorable and thought-provoking poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Penelope: A Masterpiece of Emotion and Irony

Dorothy Parker, the renowned American poet, writer, and critic, is known for her sharp wit, biting humor, and poignant observations on life and love. Her poem "Penelope" is a classic example of her unique style, combining emotional depth with ironic detachment to create a powerful and unforgettable work of art.

At first glance, "Penelope" appears to be a simple retelling of the story of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus in Greek mythology. Penelope is famous for her faithfulness and patience, waiting for her husband to return from his long journey home. In Parker's poem, Penelope is portrayed as a tragic figure, trapped in a loveless marriage and longing for the return of her lost love.

But as we delve deeper into the poem, we begin to see the layers of irony and complexity that make it so compelling. Parker's Penelope is not just a victim of circumstance, but a woman who has made choices and sacrifices in order to survive in a world that is hostile to women.

The poem begins with a description of Penelope's daily routine, as she weaves and unweaves a shroud for her father-in-law. This seemingly mundane task takes on a deeper significance as we learn that Penelope is using it as a way to delay her suitors, who are pressuring her to choose a new husband. By pretending to be busy with her weaving, Penelope is able to buy herself more time and avoid making a decision that she does not want to make.

The irony here is that Penelope's weaving, which is traditionally seen as a feminine and domestic task, becomes a symbol of her strength and resilience. She is able to use her skills and intelligence to outsmart her enemies and protect herself from harm. This is a powerful message for women, who are often underestimated and undervalued in a patriarchal society.

As the poem continues, we see Penelope's longing for Odysseus become more intense. She dreams of him at night and imagines his return, but she also acknowledges the reality of her situation. She knows that Odysseus may never come back, and that she may have to choose a new husband in order to survive.

This is where the poem takes a darker turn, as Penelope reflects on the nature of love and marriage. She realizes that she has never truly loved her husband, and that their relationship was based on duty and obligation rather than passion and desire. She wonders if she would be happier with one of her suitors, who offer her wealth and status but not the kind of love that she craves.

This is a difficult and painful realization for Penelope, and it is here that Parker's skill as a poet shines through. She is able to capture the complexity of human emotions in a few short lines, conveying both the sadness and the irony of Penelope's situation. We feel her longing and her despair, but we also see the absurdity of a world where women are forced to choose between love and survival.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as Penelope makes her decision and chooses to remain faithful to Odysseus, even if he never returns. She knows that this choice may lead to her death, but she is willing to take that risk in order to stay true to herself and her beliefs.

This is a powerful message for women, who are often told that they must sacrifice their own desires and needs in order to please others. Parker's Penelope is a woman who refuses to compromise her integrity, even in the face of overwhelming pressure and adversity.

In conclusion, "Penelope" is a masterpiece of emotion and irony, a poem that speaks to the heart of what it means to be a woman in a world that is often hostile and unforgiving. Dorothy Parker's skill as a poet is evident in every line, as she captures the complexity of human emotions and the absurdity of societal expectations. This is a poem that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come, a testament to the enduring power of art to inspire and transform.

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