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Woman In The Odyssey Essay

Odysseus' values and character traits serve as a paradigm of the ideal Homeric Greek man. The "god-like Odysseus" is crafty, valiant, wise, and eloquent. He gains much of his knowledge through travel, the meeting of different cultures and peoples and learns from suffering and mistakes. He is an aristocrat and a warrior of all warriors. We first learn of many of these traits in Homer's Iliad. Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek army always calls on Odysseus for assignments that required someone cunning and brilliant. Agamemnon sends Odysseus to ask Achilles to return to the army and sends him with Diomedes into the Trojan camp to attain information. Odysseus has to be sly and quick so the Trojans do not catch him. Homer describes them as "two lions stalking through the carnage and the corpses."(Book X, Line 297) However, these traits and Odysseus' ability are constantly challenged by the temptation of women. In the Odyssey, myriad examples of such temptation reflect the importance of gender and the role of women. Odysseus' numerous interactions with women make this influence clear.

A prime example of the importance of the roles of women in the Odyssey is their roles as seductresses. When Odysseus' crew arrives on Circe's island, they are attracted to Circe's house because of the alluring voice of the beautiful but monstrous goddess. Homer describes her as "singing in a sweet voice as she went up and down a great design on a loom, immortal such as goddesses have, delicate and lovely and glorious in their work."(Book X, Line 221) Odysseus' men respond to this by calling onto her and entering her house. The men's desire for Circe allows the goddess to exploit their weaknesses, trick them and magically turn them into swine. Odysseus, only, with the help of a protective drug and advice provided by Hermes, goes to rescue his men from Circe's island. He follows Hermes' exact instructions and when the goddess attempts to strike him with her sword, he lunges at her. Odysseus draws his sword and says, "Swear me a great oath that there is no other evil hurt you devise against me."(Homer, Book X, Line 344) Homer has Odysseus draw his sword at this moment; perhaps he aims to show how a woman's appeal and sexuality is a threat to male dominance. Such interactions between men and women add a certain dynamic to the epic and make it more interesting and easier for the reader to identify with the story. Although, Odysseus is very sly and resourceful, many times even he finds himself lost when he is in these types of situations with seductive women. Odysseus was so infatuated with Circe that he remained on her island for a year, completely forgetting about his "nostos" or homecoming, until his men convinced him to leave.

Another moment when we see the importance of gender to the project of the Odyssey is during Odysseus' seven-year stay with Kalypso on her island. When Odysseus relays the the story of Kalypso, he changes the story slightly to give the perception that he was held prisoner and lamented the entire time he was there. However, Homer gives us some insight when he says; "the nymph was no longer pleasing to him," (Book V, Line 153) which implies that at some point Odysseus did enjoy himself with the goddess on the island. Kalypso offered him immortality and a life of ease. When Odysseus was exhausted with this lifestyle and longed for his wife and homecoming, Kalypso tried to use her wiles to convince him to stay with her. She compares herself to Odysseus' wife Penelope saying, "I think I can claim that I am not her inferior either in build or stature, since it is not likely that mortal women can challenge the goddesses for build and beauty."(Book V, Line 211) When Odysseus still longs to return home, Kalypso forces him to stay on the island. This is against the ideals of Homeric Greek women. Kalypso displays a dominant and manipulative side, which is another threat against male dominance. Kalypso's ability to impede Odysseus' voyage for seven years, signifies the belief that powerful women can create danger. In this situation, Homer tells us, if a woman does not accept her place as an impuissant being, she is likely to slow down or prevent a man from reaching his goals. The Homeric Greek men consider women valuable but only to satisfy their physical needs. Zeus eventually sends Hermes as a messenger to command Kalypso to allow Odysseus to return home. Kalypso complains that the gods are allowed to take mortal lovers while someone always interferes with the affairs of the goddesses. Kalypso complains about this double standard but eventually meets Zeus' request. This is an excellent example of the male biased Homeric Greek society.

Odysseus' relationship with his wife Penelope is another clear manifestation of gender roles within Homer's epic. Penelope is the most important female character in the epic. Odysseus' homecoming is centered on his love for her. She is not only his wife, but also the mother of his son, Telemachus. Since Odysseus has not returned from the war and is presumably dead, many suitors desire to replace him, by taking Penelope's hand in marriage and Odysseus' property. While we are unsure of Penelope's attitudes towards these suitors, we are constantly reminded of her faithfulness to Odysseus. Penelope must not give in to the temptation of her many suitors to ensure that Odysseus has a successful homecoming. Although Odysseus does not know whether Penelope remains devoted to him, the epic would be pointless if he had given up so much to return to a broken home. This situation once again brings up the question of a double standard posed in the Odyssey. Odysseus is permitted to sleep with many of the nymphs he encounters, but Penelope must be faithful and wait for him. This can be interpreted as restoring the Homeric Greek ideal of women being subordinate to men. Examining this situation from a different perspective, however, it is possible that Penelope's sole reason for remaining loyal to Odysseus is to assert her independence and not to live up to this standard. Penelope has three options: she can remarry, return to her father's home to be under his care, or wait for the homecoming of her husband. Her son, Telemachus is technically the man of the house but he lacks the courage and experience to run the household. Her suitors were able to usurp his power. Penelope proves to be shrewd, much like her husband, when she tricks the suitors, claiming that she will choose one once she finishes a burial shroud for Laertes, her father-in-law. Every night she undoes the weaving she has done for the day. This trick works until some of her house servants catch her. Another example of this trickery, is her promise to marry any suitor that can string and shoot Odysseus's bow. It is probable that Penelope knew no one but Odysseus could do this. There are many different interpretations of Penelope's role as a woman in this moment of the epic. It is possible that she restores the ideal Greek woman, but I prefer to believe that Homer, once again, was trying to show the manipulative nature of women as Penelope exhibits many of the great attributes that Odysseus, a man, possesses.

It is interesting to analyze the gender problematic in the Odyssey through the lens of the roles of women in this epic. This epic is dependant on the role of women. It is difficult to completely judge the beliefs about the gender roles in Greek culture based solely on the Odyssey. At times, the roles and actions of women in this poem show the male chauvinist view, that they are objects of beauty and have to succumb to manipulation and trickery to accomplish a goal. There are other times when a woman's strength and intelligence come through. Homer uses this interplay to make the epic more interesting and develops an underlying theme of a battle of the sexes.

In the Odyssey, a myriad of examples

A prime example of the importance of the roles of women in the Odyssey is their roles as seductresses. Another way you could say this: The role of a seductress is a prime example of how important women's roles are in the Odyssey. I really like the way you wrote this paragraph, you have a few really good points.

I prefer to believe that Homer, once again, was trying to show the manipulative nature of women as Penelope exhibits many of the great attributes that Odysseus, a man, possesses. Are you sure? Penelope did what she had to do, showing her to be strong and stubborn- I see her as the female equivalent of her lost husband... But the Odyssey can be interpreted in a few different ways, so it is good that you show your own interpretation.

You show great writing ability and critical thinking skills, your grammar is fantastic. I hope this helps, good luck in school!

Epic poems reflect a culture’s values.  The female characters in Homer’s poem, The Odyssey, reflect the ancient Greek values of helpfulness, loyalty and cleverness. Athena is a character who represents helpfulness.  In the beginning of the story, she offers advice to help Telemachus persuade the suitors to leave Odysseus’s palace.  Athena advises, “At daybreak call the islanders to assembly, and speak your will, and call the gods to witness.” (page 724, lines 54 + 55).  She wants to help Telemachus get the suitors out of Odysseus’s palace because she knows Odysseus is still alive and cares for his son.

This is only one of the many times Athena shows how helpful she can be.  Through the character of Circe the important lesson of loyalty is shown.  Odysseus gives into temptation and shows how he is disloyal.  Odysseus is convinced by “Circe ‘Loveliest of all immortals’ … to stay… and restore his heart” (page 761, in-between lines 1050 + 1055).  Circe temps Odysseus to be disloyal to Penelope because he can’t refuse a goddess. Circe is a temptress and because Odysseus gives into it, this leads him down into more trouble in the long run with Scylla and Charybdis.  Cleverness is shown in Penelope when she tells the suitors she will choose a new husband when she finished weaving the shroud for Odysseus.

Homer writes, “So everyday she wove on the great loom- but every night by torchlight she unwove it; and so for three years she deceived the Achaeans” (page 726, lines 108 – 110).   This is clever of Penelope because it allows more time for Odysseus to return home without anyone knowing about it.  She is clever at many times throughout the poem and that is also one of the reasons the suitors want to marry with her.  This story helps reveal the false notion that women are the source of evil. Homer helps show to the people of Greece and the rest of the world that many women have some great qualities, such as helpfulness, loyalty and cleverness, and are just as good as men.

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