Essay on Analysis of Penelope as Moral Agent in Homer’s Odyssey

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In her essay "Penelope as Moral Agent," Helene Foley attempts to discuss Penelope, a major character in Homer's the Odyssey, in terms of Classical Athenian portrayals of women and, as her title suggests, in terms of what she calls a "moral agent." In her introductory paragraph she lays out guidelines as set down by Aristotle and his contemporaries that constitute a moral agent: the character must make an ethical and moral decision "on which the actions turns...without critical knowledge of the circumstances" (Foley 93). To this end, Foley ultimately decides that Penelope meets these standards and adds that her social, familial and personal responsibilities play integral roles in making that decision. Foley's examples and her in-depth…show more content…
Direct connections she makes between the Odyssey and the outside texts are nominal. She neglects to explain why she would compare Penelope to Aristotle's ideas on the woman's role in society, or in what respect the biological findings of Hippocrates could have possibly have influenced or been influenced by Homer's epic. The only hint the reader is exposed to is when, on page 94 she asks, "To what degree does the world of the Odyssey prefigure popular Classical Athenian assumptions about women as moral agents?" The keyword here is "prefigure" and it indicates to me that Homer wrote before the classical writers that Foley uses as her basis of understanding the term moral agent. That the reader must figure that out based on one word out of a twenty page essay instead of being exposed to at least a small discussion of the chronology of when the authors and philosophers in question lived and wrote also detracts from the essay as a whole.

Because Foley is trying to establish a framework based on historical and cultural ideas, that framework must be imbedded in a sufficient understanding of history itself in order to validate its’ meaning. In addition, I cannot but be aware of the fact that there is little direct comparison between Homer's epic poem and the outside works Foley uses, and especially by Aristotle. In fact, whenever she does make a direct comparison is when she discounts the relevance of the outside source. One of the few times the philosophies

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