At this point of the story, Odysseus’ and Penelope’s strategies for dealing with the crises they face are similar in that both of them utilize cunning to gain their goals. Such a practice seems to signify the insecurity of both spouses since individuals who reach their objectives by negotiating are stronger than those who prefer to manipulate. However, when Odysseus hesitates over the decision to kill his wife’s suitors, he reminds himself that his talent of trickery has already served him well before:
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But he struck his chest and curbed his fighting heart:
“Bear up, old heart! You’ve borne worse, far worse,
that day when the Cyclops, man-mountain, bolted
your hardy comrades down. But you held fast –
Nobody but your cunning pulled you through
the monster’s cave you thought would be your death.” (Homer 19.21-24).
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Penelope has a similar tactic of managing dilemmas, the major of which is getting rid of her suitors. Namely, she outwits them by making promises which she a priori will not have to keep. One of the examples of the heroine’s cunning is saying she will marry the suitor who can string her husband’s bow and shoot “an arrow clean through all twelve axes” (21.87).
Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin, 1997.