A Low Art from the Penelopiad (2006) by Margaret Atwood

In the prose A Low Art, from The Penelopiad (2006), Margaret Atwood’s creative retelling of The Odyssey is a monologue of Penelope’s point of view in the first person. Atwood conveys Penelope’s escape from her oppression and her life with Odysseus. 


The conflict in this prose is Penelope’s frustration of having to be bound to a life with Odysseus while she was alive. It is a monologue of her realization where she regrets not understanding Odysseus’ true nature, “He got away with everything, which was another of his specialities: getting away”. She describes her husband as tricky and a liar, yet she had only realized this once she was nothing but in a state of “bonelessness, listlessness, breathlessness.” where she realizes her mistakes in refusing to see the darker side of her relationship with Odysseus. The monologue shows the amount of freedom Penelope now has, but only after her death. However, Atwood is not only highlighting the intense amount of oppression Penelope experienced but she is also discussing how it is often that women, in general, are subjected to living to submission or docility. She is describing how her defences were fragile and brittle as she played the role of an oppressed woman who, “kept my mouth shut” and “didn’t dig deep”. Penelope fell into an abyss which gave her a fabricated “happy ending” where she would shut out anything that told her otherwise, 


Due to this, her action of “keeping the right doors locked”, later led her to realize that because she refused to speak out against Odysseus, she began to have no spine of her own, or as she mentions, she had no mouth through which she could speak. Penelope’s circumstance of realising her mistakes so late allowed certain truths to be revealed, truths which she herself (when alive) did not want to accept. She also realizes that her action of resisting the temptation of seduction from other suitors created a stereotype for all women, that they must always be obedient and faithful. Her life’s example was a “stick used to beat other women with”, it became a story for yarn-spinners to spin into a perfect stereotype for women. 


The monologue which is in a passive-aggressive tone is essentially a moral lesson for Penelope as she realizes her faults during her lifetime. 


On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer (1816) By John Keats


Following the conventional form of a sonnet, which is often used to express love, Keats expresses his admiration for Chapman’s version of Homer’s epic “The Odyssey”. Keats uses his poem as an opportunity to express the importance of appreciating poems which touch and deeply move a reader. In the poem, he explains how through the many “goodly states and kingdoms seen” he was able to find something in the literary world which satisfied him and gave him a reason to continue searching for more stories to unravel. More importantly, how he was yet to find more poems which would give him the creative satisfaction he craved. He expresses that of all the different things he has seen, he was never able to “breathe its pure serene” admitting that he was unable to find fulfilment until Chapman’s Homer.  


In poetry, he has found the gold that Cortez, and the other conquistadors he had read about in William Robertson’s History of America, which Cortez had searched for so hastily. He also alludes to the fact that Cortez is “stout,” that is, fearless, and that he is alert, “with eagle eyes.” So much so that his men stand about him in silent awe, looking “at each other with a wild surmise.” Keats secures this idea to help express his own feelings of having made a discovery with the world of poetry. 


Keats expresses his appreciation of Chapman’s version through the line, “felt I like some watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his ken;” alluding that he was finally able to find something he was able to hold on to. He was able to find something which brought a new perspective to his life because of the way it was revealed. The word “skies” implying that the version had broadened his perspective and that he was it was like heaven, giving him a realm better than those of gold. Keats is now able to venture and explore with his new discovery and this new world he has discovered for himself, allowing him to treat literature in ways that he hasn’t before.

CAS Reflection

Due to the lovely novel coronavirus, our services have been temporarily suspended. However, we still have weekly meetings discussing our service blog. We currently have barely anything on our blog, but we do have some ideas which we will eventually write down and post. I personally, really miss attending the Riding with the Disabled Association sessions. I especially miss interacting with the children and getting to know them better.


Although due to current events, we will not have extra out of school trips, we have been allowed new activities and global concerns. I have currently signed up to a student-led pottery club and am in the process of making a deep-sea clay fish. I also started another creative activity on Mondays which is origami.


Origami and Pottery:

To be honest, at first, I didn’t really want to do origami. I thought that it was one of the strangest arts I have ever done. For me, it seemed boring as I felt like the only things you could make were boats and birds. However, after joining this activity, my opinion on the form of art has definitely changed. There is an insane variety of things one can make by simply folding paper together. So far I have made a heart, a fox, a rose and a turtle. My goal by the end of this term is to make origami which is meaningful to me, as in recreating objects that I have in real life so that they have their own significance.


Currently, I’m really enjoying pottery, even though there is no definite teacher as it is a student-led activity. Despite the lack of help with exactly how to mould clay together, I began to make my little deep-sea fish. Right now, its a little too small, but my goal is to make an extensive family of deep-sea fish (like squids, octopuses, sharks, crabs) so that it can be a collection of aquatic animals.



A song lyrics which makes me think of CAS:


BTS’ ON – “bring the pain on”


In no way to disrespect the IB board, as well as not to say that CAS and IB are both painful but I feel like I’m ready to take IB and CAS head-on even though I have already made a couple of mistakes. I’ve learnt my lesson from these mistakes and I know that I will not do them again. If anything they have driven me to do my best this (and next) year.

Fathers and Sons: The Odyssey

The Odyssey

Fathers and Sons 

Ananya Sengupta 


The Odyssey has many life learnings. There is an extensive number of themes which are represented through the twenty-four stories. However, a theme that interests me the most is the relationship between father and son. Throughout the epic, it is clear that the father and son relationship is one of the most treasured relationships to the Greek people. Although the story is about Odysseus’ homecoming, there are multiple father and son relationships which are affected due to his absence. 


As Odysseus is the protagonist of the story, the most noticeable father and son relationship is between Telemachus and Odysseus. However, the least prominent relationship would be between Poseidon and his Cyclops son, Polyphemus. In this story, fathers and sons stand up for each other and support one another. For some reason, whether they have just met each other for the first time, or have known each other for a long time, fathers and sons feel obligated to protect each other. 


This interaction can be seen between Polyphemus and his father Poseidon. Polyphemus was blinded by Odysseus and didn’t want Odysseus to get away with what he has done. However, because he was blind he couldn’t punish Odysseus himself. Hence, he called out Poseidon for help. Although the intensity of their relationship is unexplored, it is assumed that they don’t know each other personally as Polyphemus says, “Listen, Earth-Shaker, Blue-Haired Lord Poseidon: acknowledge me your son, and be my father. Grant that Odysseus, the city-sacker will never go back home…”(9-530). Nevertheless, even though they don’t know each other, Poseidon takes action and helps his son. Poseidon hears Polyphemus’ prayer and almost destroys Odysseus’ ship. Ever since then, Poseidon has held a grudge towards Odysseus and makes sure that the protagonist will suffer before he manages to reach home. The father and son relationship shows that no matter the conditions, they will always stick together. 


Another example of father and son relationships is the most prominent bond, Odysseus and his son Telemachus. In the Odyssey, the father and son spend a lot of time apart and it is through their distance, that they develop respect and appreciation for one another. In this case, Odysseus built the distance by being away from home for twenty years. Telemachus decided to go on a journey and look for Odysseus. It is during this journey that Telemachus is able to prove his worth to his father. The unique bond between them strengthens as Telemachus “desired to connect all along” (285) with his father. Telemachus never wanted to believe that his father was dead and when the opportunity offered itself, he risked it all to find him. Through Telemachus’ story, Odysseus saw himself in his son. There are some secrets which may not be sufficiently articulated by the father but are visible to their sons because of their natural bond. 


According to Homer, every man should have a son who should avenge for him when he is not present. A son should look at his father as his role model whereas the father should protect his son from any harm. In this case, Odysseus protects Telemachus by killing the suitors while Telemachus does all he can to help out, and make sure that they succeeded.


Lastly, I feel that the most important “father-son” relationship is between Telemachus and Eumaeus. Although Eumaeus is a humble swineherd, after Telemachus’ return he exclaims, “Sweet light! You have come back, Telemachus. I thought that I would never see you anymore, after you sailed to Pylos. My dear child, come in, let me enjoy the sight of you now you are back.”(16-25). To which Telemachus responded with “Grandpa, yes” suggesting that as Odysseus was not present in Telemachus’ upbringing, there was an alternate father figure, that being Eumaeus the swineherd. In this scene, Homer portrayed how although his actual father Odysseus was absent, there were other fatherlike figures who were supportive of Telemachus. Thus proving that the relationship between “father and son” will always be present between men and boys regardless of the circumstances.  


Telemachus’ journey to adulthood was incomplete and slow, making him the most vulnerable member in his family: as the suitors plot to murder him. Although physically, Telemachus is of age, he seems to lack psychological maturity as he did not have the support of his father. In the course of finding his biological father, Telemachus meets two-alternative father figures, the controlling Nestor and the rich and narcissistic Menelaus. Incidentally, both of these men who echo traits which are present in Odysseus. They teach Telemachus the skill of hospitality which is an essential aspect of “elite masculine adulthood”. However, only his real father Odysseus can help Telemachus achieve what he wants which is a position of greater power in his own household. 


In this story, fathers and sons connect over revenge or vengeance. When Odysseus ultimately tells Telemachus who he really is, the two men share an embrace and immediately begin to discuss how to enact their revenge. Odysseus and Telemachus’ bond over vengeance and this is the ultimate connection to their relationship, similar to Poseidon supporting Polyphemus by taking revenge on Odysseus.  

*Odysseus meets his father Laertes after returning home.

The reason why I have included this particular illustration (drawn by me) is because it represents all the elements of the father-son relationship I have mentioned in my essay. For instance, like Odysseus, Laertes too had missed a lot of time with his son. However, he still supported Odysseus after killing the suitors and proceeded to help him fend off the families  of the dead suitors like Poseidon had supported Polyphemus



Interviews with seasoned journalists highlight challenges in the profession

In my younger days, whenever there was a party in my house and guests would ask me, “When you grow up, what do you want to be?” I would answer almost in auto response, “A journalist!” They would invariably raise their eyebrows and say, “Smart girl!” and I would savour the feeling of being ‘smart’.

It is only of late when I know there is not much more ‘growing up’ to do that I have started thinking about this childhood choice more seriously. What does it really mean to be a journalist? What is the passion that drives these people you watch on TV to brave dangerous war conditions or visit hurricane-hit coastlines?

Especially now when the realities of journalists being imprisoned or even killed are often on the news? Yes, I am talking of the Reuter’s reporters jailed in Myanmar and the recent even more horrific case of Jamal Khashoggi’s death in Turkey.

So I decided to interview three different journalists from three different countries – Ma Thida of Myanmar, Ravi Velloor from Singapore, and Romita Dutta from India. It was fascinating to learn why each of them turned to journalism. While for both Ravi and Romita journalism was a childhood passion and was connected to their interest in writing, for Ma Thida it was obviously more connected with the condition of her country. She is a doctor by profession yet when she saw her country was in so much political turmoil under the Military Rule, she took up journalism. She felt it would help her understand her country and people better. So for her, it was a way of helping her country. While for Ravi, for instance, it was a line he had read in National Geographic in an article written by actor Robert Redford: “We rode into Circleville brushing the city dust off our clothes…” He had thought that line was very clever — normally, one would arrive in the city brushing the country dust off our clothes but here Redford had cleverly turned it around. And so began Ravi’s lifelong fascination with travel, adventure and journalism!

It was also interesting to find out how many different kinds of journalism there can be and what a variety of stories they can explore and write about. Maybe this is also connected to the exact country they are in and the environment around them. Thus, Ma Thia publishes weekly and monthly journals on current affairs, data from existing laws and data from international and national NGOs’ recommendations from their reports. This she feels is important because in Myanmar because for over 50 years when they did not have a democracy, the government made sure no one got to know anything about the laws or about what the government was doing. So now when they have more freedom to express themselves she feels as a journalist her job is to make sure the people of Myanmar are well informed about what they can do.

In comparison is Ravi Velloor, living in modern Singapore which is so well connected with the Southeast Asia region and the world – he is an Associate Editor and writes two columns for The Straits Times: ‘Speaking of Asia’ which focuses on Asian trends, diplomacy, politics and transition, and ‘In Good Company’, an interview-based column with top global business personalities. Again there is Romita, an Associate Editor at India Today, operating from the less-economically developed West Bengal. She does a lot of investigative stories on health, education, social ills, superstition, environment and grave problems such as human trafficking, child sex racket and environmental hazards of the corporates. She speaks of a story she had done on a remote village in Bankura where people still have to hunt for deadly kolmi insects to ensure food for the family. Kolmi insects are poisonous to skin and eyes but they fetch a good price in the market for preparing medicines. She met one such person, Upen Bhokta, who died of skin cancer. His whole body had marks of burns and scars from Kolmi insect bites, but his face always bore that smile, the smile of ensuring two meals a day for his family. So each of them have taken on different fields of study in journalism – their choice determined by both personal interest as well as the needs of their environment.

This thought about the close link between journalism and the political and social situation of the country brings me to my final thought about the subject – in today’s world where there is a noticeable increase in conflict and where countries are getting more and more conscious of their control on their own territories, how does the environment affect journalists and their work? When asked, Ma Thida, who comes from one of the most troubled parts of the world, said she needs to spend a considerable amount of time training younger generations on the ethics of journalism so that in future they don’t compromise and know that as a journalist it is important to maintain an independent opinion.

Thus she is the first elected President of PEN Myanmar, an association which promotes freedom of expression and raising awareness on federalism and the peace process. She feels journalists need to first know what they ‘can’ do before they start doing it.

Romita too speaks of losing the power to speak out, of journalists having to pay with their lives for being outspoken, “True, things have changed over the last five years. We the journalists like any other ordinary sensible and forthright people feel a noose tightening around us. Things are becoming stifling. You are losing your constitutional right to express, right to speak out, right to protest and right to be.” Ravi too, while agreeing that journalists in Myanmar do face restrictions and that there is increasing pressure on Indian journalists who are critical of the government, sums it up beautifully, “There is no real ‘free press’ anywhere in the world. Journalists frequently have to be mindful of the sensitivities of their masters.”

Thus, journalists remain, playing an important role in every society, helping explore stories and issues that the authorities often do not want to bring out in the open. For doing this they often come under pressure and criticism, but as the ‘Fourth Pillar’ of any democracy, they need to strike that important balance between maintaining an independent opinion and being mindful of their social and political environment. Without them, the basic human right of freedom of expression would seriously suffer.

First published on 22 Feb 2019

Link to article on Dunia