Homer uses a variety of methods of characterization to reveal Penelope’s personality in The Odyssey. He includes direct characterization, indirect characterization, and situational irony which allows the reader to gain an understanding of her characters traits.
Direct characterization is one of the methods Homer uses to reveal Penelope’s personality. Direct characterization is when the narrator or another character explains or describes a character’s personality. In Book 19, Eumeus is discussing Penelope with Odysseus and states "Her temper is like the temper of a mountain lion, she has courage, a steady spirit, and a will of her own." This is an example of direct characterization, as Eumeus is directly describing Penelope’s personality traits. Through this characterization, we learn that Penelope is courageous and determined. Homer also uses direct characterization when Athena disguises herself as Mentor and speaks to Telemachus about Penelope. Athena describes Penelope as “she who has a prudent heart and is wise in counsel”. Here, we learn that Penelope is wise and prudent, making her a capable leader in the absence of Odysseus.
Indirect characterization is another method of characterization Homer uses to reveal Penelope’s personality. Indirect characterization is when the narrator or another character tells the readers what a character does or says, allowing them to make their own conclusions about the character’s personality. In Book 22, Penelope meets with Eurymachus and the other suitors, who are trying to convince her to marry one of them. Penelope responds to the suitors, saying “I shall never be persuaded, not even if the gods in heaven should plot to make me the wife of one of you”. Through this statement, we can deduce that Penelope is loyal and devoted to Odysseus. Additionally, Homer also uses indirect characterization when Penelope sets her famous challenge of weaving the shroud for Laertes. Through her challenge, we learn that Penelope is determined and clever, as she uses it to delay the suitors and buy more time for Odysseus to return home.
Finally, Homer also uses situational irony to reveal Penelope’s personality. Situational Irony occurs when an expected outcome is not what happens. In Book 19, Penelope is weaving a tapestry while the suitors are in the hall. Athena causes the tapestry to unravel when Penelope has finished weaving it, which is an example of situational irony. Through this, we learn that Penelope is patient and persistent, as she was able to complete the tapestry despite the constant interruptions from the suitors. Additionally, in Book 23, the suitors are attempting to shoot an arrow through twelve ax heads. Penelope offers to attempt the feat, which is an example of situational irony as shooting an arrow is typically seen as a male endeavor. Through this, we learn that Penelope has strength and courage and is not one to be intimidated by challenges typically facing men.
Overall, Homer uses a variety of methods to characterize Penelope’s personality in The Odyssey. He includes direct characterization, indirect characterization, and situational irony which allows the reader to gain an understanding of her characters traits. Through these methods, we can see that Penelope is loyal, determined, wise, patient, persistent, courageous, and strong.
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