The Suitor by Linda Pastan

9 08 2010

Within the first four books of The Odyssey, the group collectively known as “the suitors” already inspire feelings of anger and disgust. The reader is compelled to feel for Penelope and Telemachos while the urgency for Odysseus to return home is made more real.

Consider the picture above then study the following poem by Linda Pastan:

The Suitor
By Linda Pastan (b. 1932)

“There is always a story
that no one bothers to tell:
the younger son of a younger son,
hardly a suitor at all, sits
at the sharp edge of the table    5
among the boisterous men, not hungry
except for a glimpse of Penelope,
a woman wasted, he things—
those pale arms, that hair
a web she might have woven    10
around her own head.
Sometimes he tries to speak
to the son who looks at him wonderingly
but doesn’t answer.
How could Odysseus have left?    15
he asks himself, but is grateful
for the chance to pretend
it could be him she’ll choose.
He almost knows it must end badly,
though his will be a minor tributary    20
in that unplumbed sea
of wasted blood.


In pairs or in triads, answer the following guide questions in fifteen minutes:

1) What line/s struck you in the poem? Describe the persona portrayed in the poem.

2) What is the scenario depicted in the poem? What is the poem’s predominant mood and tone? Cite lines from the selection to justify your answer.

3) Does the picture complement the poem? Why or why not? Justify your answer by noting details found in the picture and citing lines from the text.

4) What does the line, “He almost knows it must end badly, though his will be a minor tributary in that unplumbed sea of wasted blood” mean?




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