The symbol of Weaving and Fiber Work in The Penelopiad from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

The Penelopiad

Weaving and Fiber Work Symbol Analysis

Weaving and Fiber Work  Symbol Icon

Throughout The Penelopiad, Atwood connects fiber work and Penelope’s weaving with ideas of storytelling and lying. Penelope refers to telling her own narrative using fiber work terms, saying that she will “spin a thread of her own,” and she calls Telemachus a “spinner of falsehoods like his father.” The idea of “spinning a tale” implies invention, suggesting storytelling is not a reflection of the truth but a fabrication of it. The weaving and fiber crafts that are literally present in the novel are also used for purposes of deception, further associating fiber work, lying, and storytelling. Penelope’s own infamous weaving project is based on a lie, when, to try to pacify the suitors, Penelope tells them she will marry as soon as she is finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law Laertes. However, Penelope undoes all of her progress every night to prolong the process and buy herself time. In doing so, Penelope literalizes the figures of speech she uses that connect fiber work with storytelling and lying.

Weaving and Fiber Work Quotes in The Penelopiad

The The Penelopiad quotes below all refer to the symbol of Weaving and Fiber Work . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Storytelling, Textual Authority, and Falsehoods Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Canongate Books edition of The Penelopiad published in 2006.
Chapter 1 Quotes

And what did I amount to, once the official version gained ground? An edifying legend. A stick used to beat other women with. Why couldn’t they be as considerate, as trustworthy, as all-suffering as I had been? That was the line they took, the singers, the yarn-spinners. Don’t follow my example! I want to scream in your ears—yes, yours!

Related Characters: Penelope (speaker)
Related Symbols: Weaving and Fiber Work
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 10 Quotes

Nine months he sailed the wine-red seas of his mother’s blood…
In his frail dark boat, the boat of himself,
Through the dangerous ocean of his vast mother he sailed
From the distant cave where the threads of men’s lives are spun,
Then measured, and then cut short
By the Three Fatal Sisters, intent on their gruesome handicrafts,
And the lives of women also are twisted into the strand…

Related Characters: The Twelve Maids (speaker), Telemachus , The Fates
Related Symbols: Weaving and Fiber Work , Water
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 12 Quotes

Rumors came, carried by other ships… Odysseus had been in a fight with a giant one-eyed Cyclops, said some; no, it was only a one-eyed tavern keeper, said another… Some of the men had been eaten by cannibals, said some; no, it was just a brawl of the usual kind, said others… Odysseus was the guest of a goddess on an enchanted isle, said some… and the two of them made love deliriously every night; no, said others, it was just an expensive whorehouse, and he was sponging off the Madam. Needless to say, the minstrels took up these themes and embroidered them considerably.

Related Characters: Penelope (speaker), Odysseus
Related Symbols: Weaving and Fiber Work
Page Number: 83-84
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 15 Quotes

Though we had to do it carefully, and talk in whispers, these nights had a touch of festivity about them, a touch—even—of hilarity… We told stories as we worked away at our task of destruction; we shared riddles, we made jokes… We were almost like sisters. In the mornings… we’d exchange smiles of complicity… Their ‘Yes ma’ams’ and ‘No ma’ams’ hovered on the edge of laughter, as if neither they nor I could take their servile behavior seriously.

Related Characters: Penelope (speaker), The Twelve Maids
Related Symbols: Weaving and Fiber Work
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:
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Weaving and Fiber Work Symbol Timeline in The Penelopiad

The timeline below shows where the symbol Weaving and Fiber Work appears in The Penelopiad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: My Childhood
Storytelling, Textual Authority, and Falsehoods Theme Icon
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
Christianity vs. Greek Religion Theme Icon
...thrown into the ocean. Penelope believes this was because of a prophecy that Penelope would weave her father’s shroud, and so her father thought that if she could not weave it,... (full context)
Storytelling, Textual Authority, and Falsehoods Theme Icon
...teaching crafts has become less popular than it was when she was alive. She endorses crafting as a way to pretend to be busy and so not to have heard inappropriate... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Chorus Line: The Birth of Telemachus, An Idyll
Storytelling, Textual Authority, and Falsehoods Theme Icon
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
Christianity vs. Greek Religion Theme Icon
...journey is characterized as a dangerous trip from the cave where the Fates live—where they spin the threads that determine men’s lives and then cut them when it’s time for them... (full context)
Chapter 11: Helen Ruins My Life
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
Sometimes, while Penelope was spinning yarn, she would sit in the courtyard and listen to the maids laughing together as... (full context)
Chapter 12: Waiting
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
...slaves, but would sometimes kill one for no reason. She also did not like to spin or weave, unlike Penelope, or to take account of food stores, preferring swimming. (full context)
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
...learn everything on her own. Penelope learned to make inventories and how to instruct the spinners and weavers to make clothes for the slaves. She learned how to manage the personal... (full context)
Chapter 15: The Shroud
Storytelling, Textual Authority, and Falsehoods Theme Icon
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
...came up with a scheme to postpone her decision. She set up a piece of weaving on her loom and said she was weaving a shroud for Laertes and she would... (full context)
Storytelling, Textual Authority, and Falsehoods Theme Icon
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
...singing, and she trusted them immensely. They helped her for three years to undo her weaving at night. One of the maids, Melantho of the Pretty Cheeks, would bring in snacks... (full context)
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
Ultimately, Penelope states, one of these Maids betrayed her secret unweaving of the shroud. She thinks it was an accident, and isn’t sure which one did... (full context)
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
...played with the shroud, the Suitors broke into Penelope’s room and caught her undoing the weaving. (full context)
Chapter 21: The Chorus Line: The Perils of Penelope, A Drama
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
Antiquity, Modernity, and Progress for Women Theme Icon
...than undoing her loom every night, Penelope used the time she was supposed to spend weaving having sex. (full context)
Chapter 25: Heart of Flint
Storytelling, Textual Authority, and Falsehoods Theme Icon
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
...way out of bad situations. Penelope then told Odysseus about the Suitors and her fake weaving project. Odysseus told Penelope how much he missed her, and Penelope said the same, asserting... (full context)