The Odyssey

book 21: Analyze the character: Why do you think Penelope divises the contest with the bow?, what does this contest reveal about Penelope's character?

In Books 18-20, Odysseus the suitors and finds that two in particular, Antinous and Eurymachus, are rude and demanding.

Penelope asks Odysseus the beggar for new of her husband. He says he has heard that Odysseus is on his way home. Penelope,

however, has given up hope for Odysseus' return. She proposes an archery contest to the suitors, with marriage to her as the prize.

She enters the storeroom and takes down the heavy bow that odysseus left behind.

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Penelope retrieves Odysseus' great bow from the storeroom and her maids bear axeheads into the main hall. Penelope explains the game: whoever can string her husband's bow and shoot an arrow through the twelve axeheads will marry her. This brief episode marks the ascendance of Telemakhos and Odysseus. The son grows increasingly authoritative, sharply ordering Eumaios to defy the suitors and give Odysseus the bow, while Odysseus assumes his rightful place as man of the house by besting the suitors in the contest. Even Penelope regains some grandeur, decreeing that the beggar receive his chance in the contest. Penelope's faithfulness to her husband remains steadfast, and she even shares his proclivity for trickery. She knows the outcome of this little contest all along.