This book blew me away with its depth of feeling, characterization, fast pacing and deceptively simple language. I was also astonished at how seamless...moreThis book blew me away with its depth of feeling, characterization, fast pacing and deceptively simple language. I was also astonished at how seamlessly Madeline Miller interweaves her own smaller stories into the larger backdrop of the Iliad.
I'm a huge Greek mythology nerd, have been so since childhood, so this is a book I theoretically could have written: taking something huge, like the Iliad, and adding your own small details to it. Filling in between the broad strokes of these archetypal characters. Retelling this ancient story in a modern way, while retaining a sense of its epic scale.
It accomplishes that by deliberately limiting its perspective to that of Patroclus, Achilles' beloved companion. Patroclus does not participate in the fighting until the very end; he stays with Achilles in his tent, and sometimes helps the medic, Machaon, tend the wounded. So the epic battles are largely happening in the background. What's in the foreground is Patroclus's relationship with Achilles, which is told to us in a series of vignettes covering a much broader time interval than the Iliad does, starting in their shared childhood at Achilles's father's court.
We see the action of the Iliad approaching, first from a distance, and inching closer and closer as the book progresses. The seeds of the Trojan War are planted early in this narrative, in a scene placing the child Patroclus in a room with all the other kings and heroes vying for Helen's hand, and swearing the oath with them to come to the defense of whomever Helen marries if anyone steals her from him.
There were a couple of other things I loved about that scene, besides the foreshadowing: first, Miller's ingenious sketching of all the other major Greek heroes of the Trojan War --- she gives only a few lines to each man, but those lines are so evocative that you immediately know who everyone is before she names them --- and second, her impressive rendering of Helen. Helen appears only once in the story, in this betrothal scene, and Miller makes the counterintuitive choice not to describe her.
(What ambitious writer could resist the temptation of describing the most beautiful woman who ever lived? There were lots of points in this book at which I had to stop and acknowledge Miller's cleverness as a storyteller, and the decision to keep Helen veiled was one of them.)
Anyway, once that scene is over and the war, and Patroclus' and Achilles' deaths, are looming ominously in the distance, there's a long lull in which Patroclus and Achilles become close friends, and then lovers. The scenes between them are probably the most romantic thing I've ever read. I can't do them justice in this review.
Besides their heartbreaking tenderness, these scenes also stand out for their characterization of Achilles. Reading Miller's writing of Achilles feels a lot like watching someone walk a tightrope, or successfully make a series of increasingly precarious leaps. There is so much that could go wrong trying to write a novel about someone like that, someone so much larger than life. The most obvious risk to me is making him seem arrogant, selfish, spoiled or rude. It would also be easy to make him a Mary Sue, too perfect to be believed. Somehow Miller manages to give him flaws, make those flaws believable, and also keep the character likeable without compromising the disastrous nature and grand scale of his flaws.
(Another masterful bit of foreshadowing: when Achilles is just getting to know Patroclus, and asks him what he did that his father would exile him to Achilles's father's kingdom, Patroclus answers that he killed another boy who was trying to take something from him. Patroclus wants to know what Achilles would've done in that situation, and Achilles says something like, "I don't know, no one has ever tried to take anything of mine! I imagine I'd get quite angry at them if they did." And does he ever.)
Around the same time Achilles and Patroclus are falling in love, we meet Thetis, Achilles's sea-nymph mother. Her characterization was another thing I thought was absolute genius on Miller's part; rendering a convincing, psychologically complex and realistic character who is also obviously not human is HARD, and Miller does it beautifully. This Thetis has a lot more going on than the Thetis we see in the Iliad, who acts solely as Achilles's advocate to the Olympian gods. Her interests are identical to his in the poem, but not in this novel! Here, she has certain ideas about what kind of a person she wants Achilles to be, and what kind of life she wants for him, and those ideas are not necessarily what Achilles wants for himself. He's torn between Thetis's dreams of godlike glory for him and his love of Patroclus, which brings him closer to the human side of his nature. Accordingly, this Thetis hates Patroclus and tries to chase him away from her son.
I also just like the way Thetis is described. You tend to think of the Greek gods as looking just like people, writ large, because that's how they act most of the time, but yet you also know that in their true forms they're almost unbearably fearsome. Miller's description of Thetis walks this line perfectly; she's a woman, with black hair and pale skin, but she's also scary and otherworldly. Her voice is not a woman's voice; it's a horrible rasp, a noise made by saltwater and stone, not vocal cords. Miller always uses the same sets of similes to describe her: her skin is as pale as bone, the line of her jaw is like the blade of a knife, her mouth is a jagged red rent in her face. She doesn't blend into a scene: she appears, and there is one or two people in particular she's appearing to; no one else even registers to her. You get the impression that she sees people --- mortal people --- as annoying brief intrusions on her timeless, eternal solitude. Characteristic of her are the words with which she dismisses Patroclus the first time she meets him: "You will be dead soon enough."
The last thing I want to single out in this review is Miller's handling of the relationship between Patroclus and Briseis, the girl taken prisoner by Achilles and then taken from Achilles by Agamemnon. In the Iliad, we never really see them together (they're both secondary characters who don't get a whole lot of lines in the poem, though Patroclus gets more than Briseis) and don't get the idea that there's any special bond between them until Briseis speaks at his funeral, saying she loved him. This novel, with its more intimate scope, shows us this relationship from start to finish. It also gives Briseis a personality and desires of her own, which is tough when your only role in the story is that of human MacGuffin to be fought over, and traded between other, more important, characters.
That's probably the essence of this book's genius, right there: centering the book on characters who are secondary, or even peripheral, in the Iliad and giving them enough depth to anchor a novel.
This is the book I will probably always wish I had written.(less)
As you can probably surmise from the huge collection of tags I've attached to this book, there is A LOT of stuff going on here!
Even the structure of t...moreAs you can probably surmise from the huge collection of tags I've attached to this book, there is A LOT of stuff going on here!
Even the structure of this book is complex and multifaceted: two stories, told by two narrators, in alternating chapters. The first narrator is Shira Shipman, a young, upper-middle-class Jewish woman who has recently become a wife and mother. Her life is also almost completely controlled by her employer, a huge biotechnology corporation, not only because they have a very strict, conformist corporate culture (there are even rules, unwritten of course, dictating how women of varying degrees of seniority within the company should dress), but also because Shira lives in what is essentially an upscale version of the company town: it's like a sealed-off, climate-controlled suburb/office park where everyone in the middle and upper ranks of salaried workers and management lives and works. Shira's narration, especially in the early chapters, is therefore suffused with nervousness, and a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop, since her husband has recently been promoted and their family moved into a bigger, nicer house. Shira is certain there must be a catch, since she knows she's not exactly a team player, and not exactly in her bosses' good graces.
When the other shoe does drop, Shira packs up and leaves, heading to a place that's the polar opposite of the stuffy corporate-controlled environment she's just fled: it's a free Jewish settlement out in the middle of nowhere, unaffiliated with any of the major corporations that dominate this denuded, radiation-spoiled future Earth. Her grandmother (who brought her up) lives there, and she soon learns that her mother, who left her when she was born, is also coming to stay there. She also soon finds that her grandmother and the father of one of her childhood friends are working on something mysterious and fantastical: a robot that looks, talks thinks and feels exactly like a person, but has superhuman physical and mental abilities.
This robot, who is named Yod (a letter in the Hebrew alphabet; Aleph through Tet were his predecessors, all but one scrapped because of horrible, sometimes deadly, flaws), might be the most interesting character in this novel. That's saying a lot, because this novel is stuffed to the gills with interesting characters. Unfortunately, Shira Shipman isn't one of them --- that's the biggest thing that disappointed me about this book, that practically all of the real-time narration is done by the most boring character. (The other narrator, Shira's grandmother Malkah, spends almost all of her chapters telling the story of the seventeenth-century Rabbi Judah Loews --- also called "the Maharal" --- who created the Golem to protect his people, living as they did in the ghetto of Prague, where Christian mobs could attack them at will. This story is also hugely interesting, but because it's all very external to Malkah herself, the reader doesn't spend as much time in her mind as they do in Shira's. And that's a pity, because Malkah's mind seems like a fun place.) Yod owes his moral and emotional complexity entirely to Malkah's programming; her involvement may well have been the thing that saved Yod from the fate of all the failed attempts before him.
(And now, a random note on terminology: Yod is not a cyborg. There are some cyborgs in this book, but Yod is an android. Cyborgs are people who have been technologically augmented; androids are humanlike technological constructs. Carry on, then.)
Chaos ensues once people outside the tight circle of people who've been working on "the project" learn about Yod and his abilities. There's a lot of corporate-espionage type stuff, amped up by both the apparent absence of laws in this future world (assassination raids, abduction and hostage-taking are apparently standard practice), and the immersive nature of the "cyberspace" the denizens of the free settlement must navigate to earn their livelihood, since they specialize in cybersecurity. (Cybersecurity being very important in this world, what with all the aforementioned corporate espionage.)
This conception of cyberspace --- a three-dimensional "space" that you, virtually embodied as an avatar, move around in to talk to other people, download data, build firewalls or "patrol" existing firewalls looking for signs of intrusion --- is pretty much ripped from the pages of William Gibson's novels, as is the anarchic, impoverished megacity in which Everyone Else (i.e., the poor and the non-corporate) lives. "The Glop" (from "megalopolis," which is one of my favorite science-fiction neologisms ever, and one of the minority that seems like real people might use it) looks a lot like a lower-tech version of the Sprawl from Gibson's novels; Marge Piercy even acknowledges this debt in an afterword.
Derivative as all this is, I still found the worldbuilding in this book to be pretty solid. It helps that Piercy spends most of her time developing settings that aren't the Glop or corporate bubbles: her most original, most interesting "world" is the small, tight-knit community of Tikva, which marries freedom and openness with airtight security and a technological specialization that basically buys them their autonomy. (As in, every major corporation wants to buy their firewalls, so they all tolerate the upstart little city-state's existing outside any one of their control). It's a really interesting, well-realized picture of an intentional community, with a sharp focus on day-to-day survival in an uncertain world.
Another juxtaposition this settlement (and the book as a whole) tries to embody is that of future and past. Everyone in Tikva is a practicing Jew, and Jewish religious and cultural identity are just as integral to the place's cohesion and survival as its cutting-edge technology.
But the best thing, in a novel where everything is done amazingly well, has got to be the characters. I did not find Shira very interesting, but almost every other character who was in the book for longer than a scene or two was absolutely fascinating. And even Shira, though boring (to me), was well-developed, believable and even relatable. She evolves over the course of the book, and we see a lot of different aspects of her character: her feelings of confusion and betrayal when she has to confront her mother for the first time, and her slow metamorphosis from a closed-off, emotionally stunted, timid woman to someone bold, spontaneous and loving, which coincides with her finally moving past a schoolgirl crush on another character. And Yod! Yod is an absolutely masterful work of creation; he's not human, exactly, and he's also not male in the way that a man is male (psychologically, that is; physically he's quite male), but he is certainly a person, and despite the title he is not an "it." (His ambiguous status comes up when he wants to participate in some ritual, I forget which, that is restricted to Jewish men. He wants to be considered, not just human, not just a man, but specifically a Jewish man). His emotions were about half familiar to me (as an autistic person, I am well acquainted with the angst of wondering whether one is really human or not) and half alien (he was made for violence, and takes a predatory delight in it that bothers the moral and relational parts of his psyche), and all beautifully described and conveyed through his confused-but-eloquent speech and his halting, work-in-progress manner. He's definitely one of my favorite non-human characters I've ever encountered.(less)
The thing I liked most about this book was its conception of what a modern-day Amazon society would be like: in some ways, Lori Devoti's vision makes...moreThe thing I liked most about this book was its conception of what a modern-day Amazon society would be like: in some ways, Lori Devoti's vision makes a lot of sense to me, but other choices she made were very surprising.
The book is set in the modern USA, in Wisconsin, but with one major difference: Amazons are real, and they've been living undetected among "mundane" humans for about 2,000 years. For the most part, they live nomadically, moving between Amazon encampments scattered across the country and only mixing with regular people to conceive children. (This setup reminded me of about equal parts The Gate to Women's Country and the Harry Potter series).
These Amazons aren't all warriors, though: they have four castes, each specializing in different things. Most Amazons are warriors, gifted with strength and speed beyond what even an elite human athlete possesses and trained in the use of sword and spear, but there are also priestesses, who can do magic using the four elements; artisans, who learn the craft of tattooing and give each Amazon the two tattoos that mark her tribal membership and augment her powers; and hearthkeepers, who are domestics. They cook, clean, take care of children and basically keep the whole society alive and functioning from day to day. They are held in contempt by the other three castes, which strikes me as very odd, and weirdly sexist.
One of their number --- the book's protagonist, Melanippe Saka --- has left that world to join mainstream society. She owns a tattoo parlor, and lives with her mother, daughter and grandmother. She left the Amazons because she was pregnant with a son: Amazon tradition dictated that she had to give up this son, but she wanted to keep him. She lost the son, and held an elder Amazon in her tribe, a priestess, responsible for that loss.
The plot of this book is a murder mystery: ten years into her voluntary exile, Melanippe starts finding the bodies of girls who've been murdered, and whose tattoos mark them as Amazons. She tries to avoid getting involved, but of course she can't (there'd be no story otherwise) and soon enough she's forced to confront her old enmities and work with the women she walked away from ten years ago to stop this new danger that threatens all of them. (less)
This book was pretty uneven. There were parts of it that I loved, and (usually longer) parts I was bored by. It could have benefited from some tighten...moreThis book was pretty uneven. There were parts of it that I loved, and (usually longer) parts I was bored by. It could have benefited from some tightening up; the parts that bored me seemed to be just waiting for the plot to catch up with the exposition.
However, even though it probably contributed to the book's length, I liked the fact that the story was told from so many characters' perspectives. Especially because this isn't a story about individuals, but about societies, it seems necessary to have many characters' interpretation of the same huge, earth-shaking events.
This is also possibly the funniest, wittiest book by Sheri S. Tepper that I've read yet, as well as containing some really thoughtful discussion of religion and patriarchal cultures.
The plot, as brief as I can make it: on a sparsely populated farming planet called Hobbs Land, the settlers notice that one of the settlements is becoming unusually prosperous. Its harvests are always good, and its people get along really, really well together. As it turns out, this is due to the presence of a temple built by the previous inhabitants of the planet; a real god lives in that temple. The god (actually a sort of sentient, telepathic fungus) adopts the settlers and spreads to all of their towns, which attracts off-planet visitors to Hobbs Land to check it out. At the same time, religious fundamentalists on another planet are trying to overthrow the interstellar government, and this plot intersects with the other plot by the last few chapters.
I've seen the idea of a living god before, in some of Frank Herbert's books, where the deity is called "Avata" and is a kind of sentient kelp. I think a fungus is a better choice than a plant, though: fungi, with their extensive mycelial nets, are likelier candidates for joining people together into some kind of hive-mind. (less)
Very slow to get started; there's a lot of time spent at the beginning just describing how Lavinia spends her days as a king's daughter in ancient, pr...moreVery slow to get started; there's a lot of time spent at the beginning just describing how Lavinia spends her days as a king's daughter in ancient, pre-Roman Italy. Since her duties include taking charge of ritual observances, she often goes by herself to a sulfur spring where "the fathers" are said to speak.
It is there that she meets the spirit of Vergil, who will write her into his "Aeneid," albeit in a very, very small role. They talk a lot, with Vergil revealing Lavinia's future to her, and Lavinia revealing her character to him. Once that happens, the book gets a lot more interesting, as the poet's words start to come true, and Lavinia finds herself playing a more and more active role in her kingdom's fate.
The characters are amazingly well-drawn, and they grow and change throughout the novel. We're never really sure how much time is passing, but it is clear that Lavinia changes from a girl to a fierce young woman to a wife, a mother and an elder woman. Le Guin does an excellent job of keeping Lavinia's voice distinctive, and much the same, even as her character changes dramatically. The changes also take place so gradually, and so naturally, that you hardly notice them.
There's also some very interesting discussion between Lavinia and Vergil, and later between Lavinia and Aeneas, about differences between the early Latin beliefs and observances, and Vergil's Roman religion or Aeneas's Greek (? - Aeneas is Trojan, but the gods he talks about are Roman versions of Greek gods. Maybe Vergil is speaking through Aeneas) one.(less)
I saw this book in a used bookstore and loved the premise --- a real-life Amazon warrior being magically transported into our time and commenting on o...moreI saw this book in a used bookstore and loved the premise --- a real-life Amazon warrior being magically transported into our time and commenting on our society --- so much that I devoured the book eagerly.
It reads quickly, probably due in a large part to the simple and straightforward style in which it is written. (It's written from the amazon's point of view, and she is illiterate and, though insightful and smart, fairly naive and uncomplicated. Her sentences are mostly short, plain and powerful, and her narrative is linear and straightforward.)
The best parts of it (for me) were where it most resembled Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, in which a similar (albeit reversed) culture clash takes place between male explorers and the amazonian natives of a hidden all-female society. The amazon is amazed and appalled at the men and women she encounters, who each appear to her stunted and incomplete.
Sadly, there was a lot less of this culture-clash narrative than I would have liked --- the author seems to breeze through those parts so she can get on with the part of the novel that most interested her: the obsessively detailed descriptions of Goddess worship as practiced by the amazon and those modern-day women she influences. I found those parts of the book boring, and I expect you will too unless you have a particular interest in Goddess spirituality.(less)
The characterization of the Minotaur was the one thing I really loved about this novel; everything else --- the plot, which wasn't much; the other cha...moreThe characterization of the Minotaur was the one thing I really loved about this novel; everything else --- the plot, which wasn't much; the other characters, who were kind of flat and never got all that closely involved with the Minotaur anyway; the settings, which were a dingy trailer park and the restaurant kitchen where the Minotaur works --- seemed flat, colorless and undeveloped to me.
But the Minotaur was great; weird how an author as relatively young as Steven Sherrill could capture such a sense of great age, inertia and heaviness.
You could make a case that some of the book's flaws --- its directionlessness, its weakly developed supporting characters --- grow out of this characterization of the Minotaur as someone who has lost the ability to initiate things. Thus, he keeps himself at a distance from other characters, and just drifts through life aimlessly, living and working in one place until he has to leave. Either way, if I could rate separate aspects of this book, the character of the Minotaur gets four or five stars; the story he's in gets two.
There were a few random episodes where the Minotaur runs into other mythological characters: a satyr running through some trees near a salvage yard; a nymph working as a waitress; and Hermaphroditus, son of Hermes and Aphrodite, advertising a phone sex line on late-night TV. These were my favorite parts of the book, and it's characteristic of this novel, and of Sherrill's Minotaur, that they never lead to anything.(less)
**spoiler alert** In the myth of Theseus, the king of Crete, Minos, commands his captive invetor, Daedalus, to build a maze so intricate that nobody c...more**spoiler alert** In the myth of Theseus, the king of Crete, Minos, commands his captive invetor, Daedalus, to build a maze so intricate that nobody could escape from it without help. In this maze he places the Minotaur, a man-bull hybrid who eats people. (The minotaur is also, I think, the king's wife's son. By a bull. Yep, we're definitely in a Greek myth here). Every year, Minos demands tribute from lesser kings (Theseus's father Aegeus among them) in the form of a shipload of treasure and seven youths and seven maidens, chosen by lot, to go into the maze to be eaten by the Minotaur. One year, Theseus volunteers to take the place of one of the youths, meets Minos's daughter Ariadne, who falls in love with him and agrees to help him by giving him a ball of string he can use to thread his way through the maze. He succeeds in killing the Minotaur and escaping the maze, but his father believes he has died and kills himself even as Theseus is on his way back.
Very few of these details are conserved in Victor Pelevin's hilarious, thought-provoking and ultimately baffling retelling of the story. We meet eight characters: Ariadne, and seven pseudonymous strangers who find themselves in different hotel rooms sitting at computers. They are all confused as to where they are and how they got there, and find their chat (over some kind of in-house intranet) is being filtered to prevent the exchange of concrete, real-world facts (names, places of origin, addresses, etc.) and also swear words. The form of the novel is the online dialogue between these eight characters, replying to the single message posted on the sole online forum they can access (as I mentioned, they're not on the Internet, but an intranet): I shall construct a labyrinth in which I can lose myself, together with anyone who tries to find me - who said this and about what?
Ariadne, who posted the message, acts as a sort of guide through the "labyrinth" that seems to be both physical (the hotel) and psychological. The characters explore their literal and figurative environments in different ways: a know-it-all type named "Monstradamus" uses his academic knowledge to parse the hidden symbolic and etymological meanings of the few clues that are present; "Romeo" and "Isolde" jointly decide to leave their rooms and try to find each other, periodically reporting to the group what they find; "Nutscracker" uses his background as a computer programmer to try to understand what he comes to believe is the virtual reality they've entered; "Sartrik" gets drunk and disparages everyone else's suggestions; Ariadne, who seems to be a lucid dreamer, dreams about meeting a dwarf who explains the labyrinth and the Minotaur to her; and "UGLI 666" sees religious symbolism in everything around her, and decides that her imprisonment is a penance for her sins, which she must endure before finally meeting God.
Nobody gets very far in their attempt to make sense of the maze and identify Theseus and the Minotaur. (Monstradamus, interestingly enough, is named as both). Ariadne dreams of a "helmet of horror," which her diminutive guide tells her represents the Minotaur's mind: a machine that generates past, present and future from the immediate past. (The "stream of impressions", which come from both outside the helmet of horror and within its "horns of plenty", is diffracted through the "separator labyrinth" and changed into "bubbles of hope," which are enriched by memories stored in the horns of plenty --- Monstradamus is the first to discover that this process does not actually transform anything, since the stream of impressions and the contents of the horns of plenty are all memories --- past --- so logically nothing would seem able to enter the helmet of horror at all). Much time is spent discussing and speculating on the nature of the helmet of horror, and the implication of Ariadne's dream that they are all trapped inside a virtual reality, perhaps all wearing helmets of horror that filter and shape their perceptions.
I did not really understand the ending, except in the most abstract sense. What happens is that each character hears a loud knocking on their doors, and the doors are broken down and a stranger enters their rooms, his speech appearing on their screens under the name of "Theseus." He believes them all to be minotaurs, and they all shout "MOO!" at him. (Several times near the end, the characters all speak a nonsensical phrase in unison; it seemed to me like something was taking possession of them all when it happened, since it did not flow out of their conversation and clearly perturbed them). My understanding, at the end, was that the story started over again, with the characters now assigning themselves the role of Minotaurs (as opposed to Athenian youths and maidens). Thus the story is not a story, but a single arc of a(n endlessly recursive) circle.
Other reviewers have said that this book is not worth the effort it takes to understand what the heck is going on in it. I don't agree --- for all its inscrutability, the story reads amazingly quickly. (I finished it in maybe two or three hours). It reads quickly, the ideas flow well enough, and the dialogue (except for the occasional trippy descriptive passage --- lay off the acid, okay Ariadne? --- or random outburst) is laugh-out-loud funny.
Pelevin's introduction, "Mythcellaneous," a discussion of what myth is, and of the modern mythology of progress (in a self-consciously nonlinear narrative; I C wut u did there, Pelevin!) is also worth reading; it's lucid, interesting and witty in a more subdued way than the wacky, sometimes-profane dialogue.
Skip it if you hate authors who play tricks on their readers and characters; if you like a challenge, or even don't mind one, check it out. It's like "Neuromancer" meets "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead."(less)
**spoiler alert** When I saw this book, it was love at first sight. Here was a book combining two of the things I love most in literature: Greek mytho...more**spoiler alert** When I saw this book, it was love at first sight. Here was a book combining two of the things I love most in literature: Greek mythology and Margaret Atwood. (I was even more pleased to discover that it was part of a series in which the best contemporary authors each write their own version of a myth).
The conceit of this one is that it's the Odyssey as told by Penelope (and also by the twelve maids who take lovers among her suitors, and whom Odysseus kills on his return for their disloyalty). Penelope speaks in tight, lyrical prose with frequent side-trips into flashback --- like most Atwood narrators --- while the maids speak collectively in verse. Penelope also tells the story as it happens, while the maids speak from the grave, casting their retroactive judgment on Penelope's choices as she makes them.
Characteristic Atwood themes that appear in this (very short) novel are the ambivalent, perilous relations between men and women and the less-dangerous but more emotionally fraught (and equally ambivalent) relations between women. Odysseus is portrayed here not as the clever diplomat and strategist we remember from Homer, but as a boasting, drunken tyrant who is actually much less clever than his wife. His return from Troy is actually treated here as a defeat for Penelope rather than the relief it is in the original story --- in Atwood's version, she has established a fairly stable peace between the suitors and Odysseus's household, which Odysseus upends when he barges in and pulls the stunt with the greatbow and the twelve axes. She goes from being coolly and quietly In Charge to having to accept graciously whatever Odysseus decides --- even when he wants to execute the twelve girls Penelope had taken as her special companions, and whose "disloyal" relationships she has encouraged. Her agency and power are erased utterly when her husband returns, and because of this sudden loss of power, she can do nothing to save the maids who had grown up to see her as their ultimate protector. (less)