In this age, it seems as though human beings are being increasingly conscious about the materialistic figures that shape our lives than the emotional world that create our lives. The simple paper money lights a spark in our eyes, whereas the relationship between family-members are being taken for granted.
The emotional connections between human beings today are disappearing by the moment, being replaced by the idealistic desires that one dreams of. Sometimes loyalty is not only a test of love but also a beneficial journey for one’s inner being.This contemplation signifies one of the main themes within Homer’s The Odyssey where the true test of fidelity and devotion becomes the white mist that surrounds an individual and blocks everything but his/her sun. The dramatic poem, “An Ancient Gesture”, by Edna St. Vincent Millay, is a dramatic monologue which illustrates the true significance of loyalty based on Penelope and Odysseus’ hardships. Their trials and tribulations within The Odyssey merely mirrors this obstacle in society. The emotive poem is spoken by a housemaid who tends to Penelope and empathizes over the sorrowful situation of her mistress.The poem underlines the steadfast bond between Penelope and Odysseus, one where the road ahead is only towards each other.
The poem expresses the meaning of gesture that that is made by both Penelope and Odysseus through the use of diction, imagery, and symbolism. The loneliness and anxiety that is bestowed upon Penelope as she waits for Odysseus is apparent within the chosen words of the poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay. The use of words such as “tired” and “tight” endows insight to readers to witness Penelope’s innate commitment to prolong herself from remarrying.Wrapped in the darkness, “all through the night”, Penelope stays awake to undo her weaving and “along towards morning” she weaves “all day”. The poet uses diction to relate to time utilizing words such as “all”, “along”, and “never”, to express Penelope’s willpower and determination. Furthermore, while her strength in mind is evidently revealed, so is Penelope’s hidden side of helplessness for there is “simply nothing else to do.
” She proves herself as a figure of womanhood, faithful and determined, though she is cornered with only limited alternatives.Moreover, the second stanza gives the reader a more in-depth reflection upon Odysseus’s gallant character and exhibits Odysseus as a solid, bold figure, by the use of sharp-sound words. “An ancient gesture, authentic, antique” and “classic, Greek” accentuates the strong character and significance of Odysseus in which the gesture can be seen in a whole new perspective.
The gesture itself is the act of crying. In this case, Odysseus’ gesture is perceived as somewhat emotionally hidden, which is in contrast to Penelope’s tangible gesture, one who “really cried”.Odysseus only cries when he reunites with his wife Penelope during book twenty three, because his true emotions can only be revealed to her. Thus, this gives us both perspectives of the gesture of crying as Penelope who cries from her heart and Odysseus who cries out of obligation and it is his position to do so.
In addition to the use of diction which conveys the idea of devotion, the purpose of imagery also allows readers to have sensations and mental images as the poem is read.Sometimes a wife can do nothing except “burst into tears”, as she looks deep into the sky and wonders what barriers of time and space managed to separate herself from her loved one. Similarly, the relationship as husband and wife between Penelope and Odysseus is effectively portrayed in the use of images presented in the poem. Furthermore, the illustration of night and day effectively delineates the idea of Penelope’s habitual routine where in the daylight she weaves and as the day transforms into the hours of darkness she sits “undoing it all through the night”.The depiction of night and day also suggests how her activities in daylight exhibits herself as someone who keeps her word, where she promises to choose a suitor by the end of her weaving, but during the darkness she amends and is faithful to her husband whilst she undoes her weaving until “it will never be light”. The image of Penelope’s wiping of her tears and the gesture Odysseus carries out before “the assembled throng”, as an obligation, portrays the gist of the “ancient gesture” as it opens up both their roles of their expression of grief.This form of illustration with words gives the reader an overall setting of the poem.
Through the utilization of imagery, one can visually understand the main concepts of the gesture of crying, while similarly symbolism can also allow readers to grasp the essence of this act. Unwavering as their relationship is, Penelope and Odysseus both are driven for their love for one another as seen as through the emblematic symbols that are reiterated within the poem.This device creates an atmosphere where the representations of both the emotional and physical world of the gesture interact, emphasizes each other and gives the reader a clear distinction between them. The apron, which is a repetitive symbol that appears on the first line of each stanza, highlights the commitment of both Penelope and Odysseus, and their drive to be reunited. In another sense, apron suggests labor and work, which in this case, Penelope and Odysseus actually commit to their steadfast love and their longing to be with each other.
The first appearance of the apron suggests Penelope’s tangible action of wiping sorrowful tears “on the corner of my apron”, while the second appearance of the apron denotes Odysseus’ hidden gesture of crying, “which implied to the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak”. The “assembled throng” might indicate the suitors in which Odysseus must hide his gesture of crying in order to fully disguise himself. Although Odysseus is a sea away for twenty years, his spirit lives on in Penelope’s mind just as though he were living with her.During Odysseus’s absence, Penelope is described as “weaving all day. ” The loom that she weaves suggests the day and when she undoes the loom it implies the night. Penelope is clearly able to deter her physical desires from the suitors and continue her loyalty to the one she loves.
Through these different perspectives, the emotional and physical differences of the gesture are given a new light. One can identify the poem either as a criticism over the people who take emotional closeness for granted or pity those who are ignorant enough to think in this sort of fashion.The emotional priorities of human beings often deteriorate as the materialistic values of the modern world increases. Human closeness is disappearing and often the physical and emotional dimensions of love seem to overlap each other, lessening the significance of the core meaning of loyalty and love for one another. This poem, through diction, imagery, and symbolism clearly depicts that the spiritual essence of love should over prioritize the physical aspects of it. In this case, Penelope and Odysseus, though the seas separate them, their love for each other is eternal. There is something about Penelope and Odysseus that gives us all hope.