In The Odyssey, Penelope is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, a woman known for her intelligence and constancy. And the book draws to an end with the slaughter of the suitors by Odysseus and Telemachus, the hanging of twelve maids who have been sleeping with the suitors, and the reunion of Odysseus and Penelope. Margaret Atwood`s The Penelopiad remythologizes this event drawing on material other than The Odyssey, especially for the details of Penelope`s parentage, her early life and marriage, and the scandalous rumours circulating about her.
Margaret Atwood has chosen to tell the story from the perspective of Penelope and the twelve hanged maids. The maids form a chanting and singing Chorus, which focuses on two questions that arise after any close reading of The Odyssey: what led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? In The Penelopiad, Penelope is always been haunted by the death of the hanged maids.
The Penelopiad is gothic version of The Odyssey told through the voice of Penelope, speaking from beyond the grave as she tells her life story in the form of a confession in self-defence and self-justification. However, Penelope`s is not the only voice here her tale is frequently interrupted by the voices of her twelve hanged maids, those nameless slave girls who have nothing to say in The Odyssey. Writing against this erasure, Atwood uses her imagination to expand Homer`s text, giving voice to this group of powerless silenced women.