moral responsibility

Posted: 01/21/2006 in books

My latest philosophy seminar included a creative writing assignment regarding the culpability of Helen, mine was ever so slightly influenced by Margret Atwood’s new book about Penelope and Odysseus…..

A defence of Helen by Penelope

If anyone is going to defend Helen, it should be me. If any one is going to accuse Helen, it should be me. I am her cousin, her sister, her equal (well maybe not her equal in all respects; virtue and responsibility are two things she cares little about), and her escapades with Paris affected the safety of my family and threw my own conduct into question.

We both married young and well. Though our husbands are older and not what we might have chosen for ourselves. The downfall of a May to December relationship will be temptation. It is our responsibility, as the heart of the household, to stay strong and not be swayed by flattery or the sight of a viral young man. But, it is our husband’s duty to protect us, and for that reason I will defend Helen and blame Menelaus.

Menelaus is both older and wiser than Helen; he should have known the trouble he was getting himself into by marrying a stunner. You would be a fool to believe that the most desired girl would not catch the eye of the gods, and given their predilection for meddling in mortal affairs he would have been wise to engage the services of a soothsayer. That being said, if the gods had it in for you there is little resistance we mortals can put up – my husband’s spat with Poseidon is testament to that.

Of course if Helen’s seduction was not part of a “grand plan” by Aphrodite and a straight forward abduction then Menelaus is wholly responsible. An oath between himself and the fraternity of suitors is not an adequate home security policy. Only a careless man or a fool would leave their property so poorly guarded, that at the first opportunity your guest, your barbarian guest, would raid your vault and your marriage bed. Where were Menelaus’ servants? Did no one notice the procession of his possessions making their way to the harbour?

I find this hard to believe, so I must assume that Helen’s abduction was not entirely unwilling. Even if this was the case, Menelaus is still at fault. Rule number one in the handbook for marrying a hottie is not to leave them unattended in the company of a randy young stallion. You never know what nonsense your guest will spout, and what pretty poetry they will fill the head of your young filly. If the stud is not eloquent in speech then he may rely on his youth and sheer physical perfection.

It is up to the husband to protect his wife from untoward influences. The more beautiful and desirable the wife, the harder the husband must work. Unfortunately for all of us Menelaus did not keep a closer watch on our Helen.


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