Core Decorum: Fidelity

Illustration courtesy of Cecilia Lang.

At the University of Dallas, we read many works of literature with characters that exemplify values that we ought to imitate. One character who comes to mind is Penelope from the Odyssey. Before we read “The Odyssey,” we read the “Iliad,” which depicts one of the most horrific events in the ancient world — the fall of Troy.  

As we all know — because we all have read it — the Odyssey describes Penelope’s quiet patience for her husband, Odysseus, to return from a horrific war. She waits for years, never doubting that her husband would be returned to her, and resists all other romantic pursuits, of which there were many. Penelope is one of those characters from our Core that we ought to imitate because of her example of fidelity in the midst of crisis and tragedy.

Fidelity does not always have to be romantic, as it was for Penelope, who had to wait for her husband and never move her marriage bed. It can also apply to friendships or family.  We all experience times of hardship in our relationships with others. Whether it be with a romantic interest, a friend, or a family member, characters like Penelope teach us that we are never to emotionally abandon our loved ones during tragedy.

Why am I specifying “emotional” abandonment? Penelope never had the option to physically abandon Odysseus — he was already gone at war. However, she remained completely emotionally present to him because she never allowed another suitor to have her love that was rightly to be given to her husband. She was constant and loyal. This is a quality of Penelope that we all ought to imitate.  

What would the world be if we all dropped our relationships with others the moment something went wrong? When things do go south in our lives and in our relationships, perhaps we ought to think of the example that Penelope gives us. We should ask ourselves if distance is truly necessary or if we are simply giving up when things get difficult. In a case like Penelope’s, she respected her sacred bond with her husband, and did not give up when things got difficult for so many years. She remained fervent and unerring in her love for her partner in a way that we all ought to imitate in our own lives.


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