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Sylvia Plath: Poems “Daddy” Summary and Analysis | GradeSaver
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Sylvia Plath: Poems
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click here Death Deathbird 1. Debbie Dreschler 1. And what if the Helen of myth, or the Helen of the Iliad , were reinvented as Penelope? In Euripides, Helen is obsessed with plot and strategizing. In this way, the Helen of Euripides is also similar to Odysseus of the Odyssey. Helen is set in Egypt, and Helen is being courted by the barbarian tyrant. How is that idea expressed in the classics, in works like the Odyssey and Helen? Penelope of the Odyssey is a version of that phenomenon. Once she shows her face to any man, it somehow lays her open to being stolen—being raped like Helen, or taken away or claimed in some way.
Penelope insists her face is vulnerable to time, marked by the years of abandonment and grief. But her beauty creates its own kind of vulnerability, and it makes her, like Penelope, constantly a target for male judgment and male misinterpretation. They can both be nobody. How does appearance match reality—or does it? I was trying to make the connection not only with gender, but also with Odysseus and his many disguises. In the Odyssey , Odysseus and Helen have so much in common. It combines the Iliadic epic of war with the homecoming epic of the Odyssey , but in a weird way. The Aeneid is interesting as a poem deeply engaged with rewriting the Odyssey and re-imagining scenes from it.
Sent by Zeus and Athena, Hermes comes down and informs Calypso that she has to let him go. In Aeneid Book 4, we have that same set of tropes: Mercury comes to Aeneas and tells him he must leave Dido and his adulterous love affair, and instead go found Rome. For one thing, nobody comes to tell Dido to let Aeneas go; the divine apparatus is all focused on the Western man, not the African woman.
Would you say a modern reader will realize just how different what is at its core the same story can be, in the hands of different speakers, I suppose? Of course, many people are going to be reading both the Aeneid and the Odyssey in translation, so the words are going to be a set of choices by an English-speaker, rather than by a Latin or Ancient Greek speaker. One of the most moving parts of the Odyssey becomes one of the most moving parts of the Aeneid. Maybe it goes back to Helen. As an expert, are those moments of juxtaposition between Virgil and Homer particularly delightful?
There are so many ways to tell a story and make it mean something specific, but a rich specificity that has many layers to it. Alluding to an earlier text or quoting an earlier movie in a later one can just be a game or gimmick. Reardon notes. Tell us about it. This is a really fun text. I included it on the list not just because the whole thing is a playful re-write of the wandering books of the Odyssey, but also because in the second book, the narrator goes to the Elysian Fields and encounters both Homer and Odysseus.
The narrator cross-examines Homer and asks all about his birth-place, and why he started these poems in the way he did. And Homer has nothing interesting to say whatsoever during this interview. Maybe like me being interviewed. I love the playfulness of this text, but I also love what it brings out about the Odyssey itself. It can also be fun to be in multiple, different, strange new worlds.
It seems that it allows for a self-conscious mocking of form and narrative, of the Odyssey and Homer, and a certain playful whimsy. The playful whimsy is very important. The satire is much more biting against the genres that take themselves too seriously, which for Lucian are history and philosophy. Not that kind of veracity, anyway. I actually do think the Odyssey is extremely truthful in many ways, about feelings and relationships and social structures, and the details of the material world and lived experience.
Of course, Milton read Homer, read deeply throughout all of the classics, read the Bible. What does the modern reader gain by reading the poem through a Homeric lens? This speaks to the way that allusion, working with earlier texts, can be a way of enriching what an author can say in narrative. When he makes his journey, Satan is explicitly compared to Ulysses. On one level, Odysseus is the wrong kind of hero to be, but in later books the reunion of Adam and Eve after the Fall has elements of the reunion of Penelope and Odysseus. Paradise Lost is a homecoming story of marital breakup and martial reunion, just as the Odyssey is.
How would you compare what Milton is trying to do writing an epic with Homer? It seems misleading to say it passed down orally till the end of Rome. In some big sense, the Odyssey is a political poem. Both the Odyssey and Paradise Lost are poems engaged with questions about what the ideal structure of a society is, and also both poems about conflict within a household, and within a community. Of course there have been many attempts, in antiquity and more recently, to plot the places of the Odyssey onto real maps, and to locate the Trojan War in real historical time.
We know that there were in fact many Trojan Wars; the city was destroyed and rebuilt several times. In the slaughter of the suitors and the at least partial outbreak on Ithaca in the final book of the Odyssey , what the poem is doing at least in part is tracing the question of how one war relates to another. Paradise Lost , too, is engaged with the question of how the war in heaven is related to later wars and future conflicts. How does she feel about the suitors?
And so on. How would you compare depictions of female subjectivity in Paradise Lost with Eve and the Odyssey with Penelope? We have hints at what Penelope wants, what she needs, what she feels, what she thinks, but they come through in her narratives of her dreams, rather than actual monologues in which she is able to communicate her thoughts and feelings. For instance, we get the great goose dream in Book 19, in which she weeps because the eagle killed her geese, which hints that she has some kind of attachment to the suitors. The pains that comes from being a mortal woman are really clear in the poem.
I first awaked, and found myself reposed Under a shade on flowers, much wondering where And what I was, whence thither brought, and how. Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound Of waters issued from a cave and spread Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved Pure as the expanse of heaven; I thither went With unexperienced thought; and laid me down On the green bank, to look into the clear Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky. As I bent down to look, just opposite, A shape within the watery gleam appeared Bending to look on me, I started back, It started back, but pleased I soon returned, Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks Of sympathy and love;.
The image in the water gives her a reciprocity missing from the marriage that is nonetheless the only plausible marriage for her. Part of what Eve gets from Satan is being taken seriously intellectually—having her ideas be heard. This is the most explicitly feminist text on your list. Why did you include it? I was conscious that there were multiple receptions of the Odyssey I could choose. It seemed crazy to do that when there are so many good woman writers in the world, and have been for quite a long time.
I really love the Penelopiad. In Homer, we never see Penelope grieve or triumph or comment in any way on those deaths. Atwood fills in that gap.
I also love how it juxtaposes different styles and different voices. It has both ballad-like verse and prose intermixed, which is not what the Odyssey does, but I think it speaks to something which is in the Odyssey , about the mixture of different modes, different ways of seeing things. From the very first page, Penelope is acerbic, sharp-tongued and witty—so present and immersed in her own reality. What was Penelope really up to? Her fame will live forever, and the deathless gods will make a poem to delight all those on earth about intelligent Penelope.
Not like my wife—who murdered her own husband! Her story will be hateful; she will bring bad reputation to all other women, even the good ones. Have you read the Robber Bride?