Arms and the Girl

Chapter 3

Grace Polk sat at her lunch table, her petition in front of her, awaiting all comers. But being Grace Polk, she didn't get many comers. She was even relieved when Glynis walked up.

"Hi," said Glynis. "I hear that you're organization a petition about a class. What's it about?"

"I don't think students should be forced to read the ILIAD. Too militaristic."

"Hmm, don't think I have much opinion about that. On the other hand, I hated it when one teacher made me read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, so I empathize. Brainy girl, Lizzie, but she wasn't allowed to do anything with her life but get married. OK, I'll sign."

"Thanks," said Grace, tremendously relieved, but not wanting to show it. Now she finally had a signature other than her own.

Grace watched as Glynis walked toward the door of the lunchroom, and bumped into her boyfriend, Luke. She hoped they would not get gooey, and in fact they didn't. After a few exchanged words, Luke walked over to Grace's table.

"Hi, Grace. I heard you've come up with a petition setting out your objections against the Iliad. I guess I'll sign. We sub-defectives have to stick together."

"Thank you, but why do we have to stick together?"

"Because if we don't, I won't have anybody to talk to except my sister, and she's –"

"Um, I get your point. Thank you anyway."

Luke signed and went off, and a girl walked up, somebody Grace had never spoken to before, though she had spotted her in English class. "Hello. I hear you're circulating a petition about not reading the ILIAD."

"That's right."

"I'll sign. I don't think students should have to read pagan stuff. All those false gods and goddesses."

Grace hadn't even thought of that. She had heard that many devoutly religious people in the past loved Greek mythology, regarding it as literature and not as an affront to their beliefs. But she desperately needed more than 3 signatures. "OK. Please sign here."

The girl signed and walked off. A few minutes later, Friedmann showed up. "Hi. Glynis told me about your petition. I'm willing to sign, because I hope they'll accept Lord of the Rings as a substitute."

"But you've already read Lord of the Rings," Grace pointed out.

"Right. So I'll have lots of free time while everybody else is trudging through the Rings or the Iliad."

"Friedmann, you're gross."

"Do you want my signature or not?"

Grace sighed, "Okay. You're not gross. Just very irritating."

"I can live with that." He signed the form and went off to eat.

Five signatures now. Still not too impressive. Grace looked around for more potential signers, and then her heart sank, because the Girardi was walking up.

"I heard that you were getting up a petition about the Iliad," said the Girardi.

"Yeah. Will you sign?"

"Can we talk about this first?"

"If you like."

"I had a dream about the Iliad last night," said the Girardi. "I dreamed I was in the story – not as a hero, but as one of the captive woman. They were complete innocents, whose only crime was to cross paths with a lecherous "hero". And after ten years away from their queens, all of the heroes were pretty horny. Their only chance was if somebody back in Troy decided to ransom them, but the Trojans were more likely to write them off as damaged goods. The one who did try to rescue the girl was a father, not a lover who wanted a pure girl."

"Wow!" said Grace. "I hadn't thought through all that, but you're right. It's all the more reason why we shouldn't have to read about such as an oppressive society. So will you sign?"

"No. Because this isn't about the Greek heroes, this is about Homer. The reason we know about the horrible treatment of the girls is that Homer told us. He didn't call a lot of attention to it, and we don't know what Homer himself thought about it, but it's there. Compare that to Lord of the Rings. Were any of the heroes there brutal to woman, or to peasants like Thersites? No, Tolkien wouldn't let his heroes act that flawed."

"Now, we don't know why Homer was so frank about the oppression," the Girardi went on. "Maybe he secretly thought the heroes were a bunch of bullies, and sneaked in some examples while he was singing the epic to the aristocrats. Or maybe he was very honest in depicting what his society was like. I remember reading a kid's version of the Odyssey several years ago. It made like Odysseus was a big hero, but he did do some rotten things. Put that giant's eye out, and he only had one. Lost all his men, and didn't even bother to remember their names. Killed a lot of suitors, and for what? Eating his food and hassling his wife. And Homer tells us all that. Homer told us about his society, the origin of Greek culture, warts and all. So I think he's worth reading. Sorry, Grace, but I can't sign."

"I understand." The Girardi's arguments were intriguing. But what Grace couldn't understand is how the GIRARDI came up with all that. The girl was supposed to be a ditz, but she wasn't.

The Girardi went off, and Grace saw her talking to a cute boy whom Grace had seen before but didn't know the name of.

"So, did I come up with the right answer?" asked Joan, out of Grace's earshot.

"There is no right answer," replied Cute Boy God. "There is only the deeply considered answer, which you gave. As Socrates said a few centuries after the Trojan War, the unexamined life is not worth living."

"Thank you. But next time, do I have to examine life so closely? I mean, all those unwashed heroes STANK."

"It will become easier as you go along, Joan."

Meanwhile, unaware of the divine revelation going on just a few feet away, Grace looked at dismay at her petition. Just five signatures, and not one of them really represented agreement with Grace's point of view.

"Oh, hell. Maybe I should go ahead and read the damn Iliad!"