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The Odyssey

Homer
Summary

Key Questions and Answers

Summary Key Questions and Answers

5) How does Penelope test Odysseus?

Penelope has not seen her husband for many years. When Odysseus returns, Penelope doesn’t recognize him and cannot be sure that Odysseus is really who he says he is. She tests Odysseus by ordering her servant Eurycleia to move their marriage bed. Odysseus gets angry. He explains that he built their bedroom around an ancient olive tree, and used the top of the tree to make their bedpost. He is angry because he believes Penelope must have replaced this bed with a movable one. His anger, and the fact that he knows the story of the bed, proves his identity. Only Odysseus, Penelope and one loyal servant have ever seen the bed. Penelope’s determination to test Odysseus shows that she is intelligent and not easily tricked. In this way, she is very like Odysseus. Penelope’s test reminds us that the two characters are soulmates. Their marriage bed, literally rooted in the soil of Ithaca, is a powerful symbol of the permanence of home in a world where nothing else seems dependable.