Human values transform throughout history and reflect cultural, economic and religious aspects of a corresponding society. The role of woman has changed over the centuries, but some part of it remains the same. Despite the crisis of the family as an institution, fidelity as a basis of marriage is still relevant these days. In Homer’s time, however, it was even more important because the role of woman was totally confined to her household. Therefore, Penelope, Odyssey’s wife, reflects a historical role model of decent woman, who remained faithful to her husband under all circumstances.
In order to understand why fidelity is an essential trait of a good wife, it is worth focusing on the traditional statuses of man and woman. Modern women rarely agree to devote themselves totally to their families and choose career paths and social interaction. However, even these days, it should be accepted that the relationship is a priority for woman just because of her nature. It is important to achieve for man while it is vital to communicate for woman. This is why it would be fair to say woman is largely responsible for climate and comfort in marriage. This statement was even more correct in Homer’s time when being a wife and mother was a woman’s main task.
In the Odyssey, the traditional concepts of masculinity and femininity are presented. Man is a researcher and traveler; he goes on a quest while his wife should wait for him. In fact, masculinity is active, and femininity is passive. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to say that woman is presented as powerless. On the contrary, she has a special power, which is different from a man’s authority. She is a creator of home, where her husband can return after years. In order to be successful in the world, he must know that this is home, where he is loved and waited. In this case, he feels secure despite all the circumstances and dangers, which he inevitably meets on his way. He knows that even if he is beaten and lost, if he is betrayed by everyone, there is one person who will never betray him — his wife (Homer, 2000). This story in the Odyssey can be treated as metaphorical today when marriage is considered. In fact, this pattern explains why fidelity is so important for a good wife. The woman’s role in this case is to ensure stability that will empower her man and enable him to stand up even if he falls.
If the character of Penelope is considered, it should be noted that fidelity is a complicated choice. Her husband is absent for twenty years; she lives alone and never knows if he would ever return to her. It is a temptation taking into account that it was far more difficult and less socially acceptable to live alone for women in Homer’s time. She has suitors who offer marriage to her, but she remains faithful to her husband even in the situation of uncertainty. Thus, it is a poetic justice that her husband returns to her even he has numerous chances to die, which implies the idea that there is a connection between fidelity and a happy ending.
As a consequence, it should be noted that metaphorically, Penelope’s fidelity and belief in her husband saves Odyssey from death because it is gods’ will to make it happen. These days, despite the fact that the women’s lifestyle and scope of opportunities has changed dramatically, fidelity is still an important aspect of a successful marriage.