The Penelopiad Quotes

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The Penelopiad The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
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The Penelopiad Quotes Showing 1-30 of 72
“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Cleverness is a quality a man likes to have in his wife as long as she is some distance away from him. Up close, he'll take kindness any day of the week, if there's nothing more alluring to be had.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Which of us can resist the temptation of being thought indispensable?”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Now that I am dead, I know everything.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“I am tempted to think that to be despised by her sex is a very great compliment to a woman.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
tags: women
“Then sail, my fine lady, on the billowing wave -
The water below is as dark as the grave,
And maybe you'll sink in your little blue boat -
It's hope, and hope only, that keeps us afloat”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Never mind. Point being that you don't have to get too worked up about us, dear educated minds. You don't have to think of us as real girls, real flesh and blood, real pain, real injustice. That might be too upsetting. Just discard the sordid part. Consider us pure symbol. We're no more real than money.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Who is to say that prayers have any effect? On the other hand, who is to say they don't? I picture the gods, diddling around on Olympus, wallowing in the nectar and ambrosia and the aroma of burning bones and fat, mischievous as a pack of ten-year-olds with a sick cat to play with and a lot of time on their hands. 'Which prayer shall we answer today?' they ask one another. 'Let's cast the dice! Hope for this one, despair for that one, and while we're at it, let's destroy the life of that woman over there by having sex with her in the form of a crayfish!' I think they pull a lot of their pranks because they're bored.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
tags: gods
“The Chorus Line:
A Rope-Jumping Rhyme

we are the maids
the ones you killed
the ones you failed

we danced in air
our bare feet twitched
it was not fair

with every goddess, queen, and bitch
from there to here
you scratched your itch

we did much less
than what you did
you judged us bad

you had the spear
you had the word
at your command

we scrubbed the blood
of our dead
paramours from floors, from chairs

from stairs, from doors,
we knelt in water
while you stared

at our bare feet
it was not fair
you licked our fear

it gave you pleasure
you raised your hand
you watched us fall

we danced on air
the ones you failed
the ones you killed”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
tags: death
“Happy endings are best achieved by keeping the right doors locked”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Even an obvious fabrication is some comfort when you have few others.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Children were vehicles for passing things along. These things could be kingdoms, rich wedding gifts, stories, grudges, blood feuds. Through children, alliances were forged; through children, wrongs were avenged. To have a child was to set loose a force in the world.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Also, if a man takes pride in his disguise skills, it would be a foolish wife who would claim to recognise him: it's always an imprudence to step between a man and the reflection of his own cleverness.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Creating some god for one's inspirations was always a good way to avoid accusations of pride should the scheme succeed, as well as the blame if did not.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“The shroud itself became a story almost instantly. 'Penelope's web', it was called; people used to say that of any task that remained mysteriously unfinished. I did not appreciate the term web. If the shroud was a web, then I was a spider. But I had not been attempting to catch men like flies: on the contrary, I'd merely been trying to avoid entanglement myself.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Envoi

we had no voice
we had no name
we had no choice
we had one face
one face the same

we took the blame
it was no fair
but now w're here
we're all here too
the same as you

and now we follow
you, we find you
now, we call
to you to you
too wit too woo
too wit too woo
too woo

(The Maids sprout feathers, and fly away as owls.)”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Point being that you don't have to get too worked up about us, dear educated minds. You don't have to think of us as real girls, real flesh and blood, real pain, real injustice. That might be too upsetting. Just discard the sordid part. Consider us pure symbol. We're no more real than money.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“We immortals aren't misers - we don't hoard! Such things are pointless.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“It's always an imprudence to step between a man and the reflection of his own cleverness.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
tags: men
“But I was the daughter of a Naiad. Behave like water, I told myself. Don’t try to oppose them. When they try to grasp you, slip through their fingers. Flow around them.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
First maid:
If I was a princess, with silver and gold,
And loved by a hero, I'd never grow old:
Oh, if a young hero came a-marrying me,
I'd always be beautiful, happy, and free!

Chorus:
Then sail, my fine lady, on the billowing wave -
The water below is as dark as the grave,
And maybe you'll sink in your little blue boat -
It's hope, and hope only, that keeps us afloat.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“Death is much too high a price to pay for the satisfaction of curiosity, needless to say.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“We can see through all your disguises: the paths of day, the paths of darkness, whichever paths you take - we're right behind you, following you like a trail of smoke, like a long tail, a tail made of girls, heavy as memory, light as air: twelve accusations, toes skimming the ground, hands tied behind our backs, tongues sticking out, eyes bulging, songs choked in our throats.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“He told me that everyone had a hidden door, which was the way into the heart, and that it was a point of honour with him to be able to find the handles to those doors. For the heart was both key and lock, and he who could master the hearts of men and learn their secrets was well on the way to mastering the Fates and controlling the thread of his own destiny. Not, he hastened to add, that any man can really do that. Not even the gods, he said, were more powerful than the Three Fatal Sisters. He did not mention them by name, but spat to avoid bad luck; and i shivered to think of them in their glum cave, spinning out lives, measuring them, cutting them off.”
Margaret Atwood , The Penelopiad
“Daughters of Naiads were a dime a dozen in those days; the place was crawling with them. Nevertheless, it never hurts to be of semi-divine birth. Or it never hurts immediately.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“She who weeps when the sun’s in sky, Will never pile the platter high.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“There is indeed something delightful about being able to combine obedience and disobedience in the same act.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“For the heart was both key and lock, and he who could master the hearts of men and learn their secrets was well on the way to mastering the Fates and controlling the thread of his own destiny.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
“So by the time the morning came, Odysseus and I were indeed friends, as Odysseus had promised we would be. Or let me put it another way: I myself had developed friendly feelings towards him - more than that, loving and passionate ones - and he behaved as if he reciprocated them. Which is not quite the same thing.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus
“The Chorus Line: The Birth of Telemachus, An Idyll

Nine months he sailed the wine-red seas of his mother's blood
Out of the cave of dreaded Night, of sleep,
Of troubling dreams he sailed
In his frail dark boat, the boat of himself,
Through the dangerous ocean of his vast mother he sailed
From the distant cave where the threads of men's lives are spun,
Then measured, and then cut short
By the Three Fatal Sisters, intent on their gruesome handcrafts,
And the lives of women also are twisted into the strand.

And we, the twelve who were later to die by his hand
At his father's relentless command,
Sailed as well, in the dark frail boats of ourselves
Through the turbulent seas of our swollen and sore-footed mothers
Who were not royal queens, but a motley and piebald collection,
Bought, traded, captured, kidnapped from serfs and strangers.

After the nine-month voyage we came to shore,
Beached at the same time as he was, struck by the hostile air,
Infants when he was an infant, wailing just as he wailed,
Helpless as he was helpless, but ten times more helpless as well,
For his birth was longed-for and feasted, as our births were not.
His mother presented a princeling. Our various mothers
Spawned merely, lambed, farrowed, littered,
Foaled, whelped and kittened, brooded, hatched out their clutch.
We were animal young, to be disposed of at will,
Sold, drowned in the well, traded, used, discarded when bloomless.
He was fathered; we simply appeared,
Like the crocus, the rose, the sparrows endangered in mud.

Our lives were twisted in his life; we also were children
When he was a child,
We were his pets and his toythings, mock sisters, his tiny companions.
We grew as he grew, laughed also, ran as he ran,
Though sandier, hungrier, sun-speckled, most days meatless.
He saw us as rightfully his, for whatever purpose
He chose, to tend him and feed him, to wash him, amuse him,
Rock him to sleep in the dangerous boats of ourselves.

We did not know as we played with him there in the sand
On the beach of our rocky goat-island, close by the harbour,
That he was foredoomed to swell to our cold-eyed teenaged killer.
If we had known that, would we have drowned him back then?
Young children are ruthless and selfish: everyone wants to live.

Twelve against one, he wouldn't have stood a chance.
Would we? In only a minute, when nobody else was looking?
Pushed his still-innocent child's head under the water
With our own still-innocent childish nursemaid hands,
And blamed it on waves. Would we have had it in us?
Ask the Three Sisters, spinning their blood-red mazes,
Tangling the lives of men and women together.
Only they know how events might then have had altered.
Only they know our hearts.
From us you will get no answer.”
Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

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