Women In The Oddessy Essay Research Paper

Women In The Oddessy Essay, Research Paper

Women in The Odyssey

In The Odyssey the main character, Odysseus, meets and entertains an

impressive array of women. All of the women that he meets are very different

and have different personalities and Homer clearly states his attitude towards

each of the women. Some of the women are seen as essentially ‘good’ or

essentially ‘bad.’ It is also clear that Homer adopts a sexist attitude towards the

women in his novel. In The Odyssey women are generally portrayed as

manipulative and deceitful and Homer is a sexist who holds a double standard of

morality for men and for women.

There is one thing that all the women, be they human or god, in The

Odyssey have in common: they are all very clever. There are two ways that the

reader can interpret this characteristic that women share: either Homer feels that

women are very intelligent or he feels that women are underhanded and sneaky.

The opinion of Homer is probably the latter because the most of the women that

Odysseus, the hero of the novel, encounters use their intelligence against him.

Kalypso and Kerke both try to seduce Odysseus into staying on their islands,

while Penelope uses her cleverness to trick the suitors into believing that it took

her three years to weave a shroud.

There are two goddesses that Homer wants the reader to perceive as

‘bad’ women: the goddesses Kalypso and Kerke. Kalypso is a goddess who kept

Odysseus on her island for seven years so she could have him. She is portrayed

at this very greedy and lustful nymph who seduces Odysseus into forgetting

about his home and “forces” him to have sex with her every night. She is also

‘bad’ because she, through her great guile, makes Odysseus forget about his

home and his beloved wife, Penelope. She even offers him immortality if he

stays with her forever. She only lets him go when she is force to by Zeus. This

type of behavior suggests that Kalypso does not love Odysseus because she

would not let him live even though he wanted to.

Kerke is another prime example of the deceitful woman. When

Odysseus’s men wash up on the shore. She lures them into her home by signing

in an enchanting voice and gave them thrones to sit on and honey to eat. But as

soon as they turn their backs Kerke “adding her own vile pinch” (Page X, 260),

turns them all into pigs. The one man that stayed behind, Eurylokhos, says “I

saw cruel deceit” (X, 285) when he finds out that this evil she-witch has turned

perfectly good men into pigs. But Odysseus is much to clever to be tricked by

this goddess and he eats a plant that allows him to resist the poison of Kerke.

Once Kerke realizes that Odysseus has found her out she cowers under the

sword of such a strong man but does not just turn Odysseus’s men back into

men. Instead she offers sex to Odysseus which is, of course, the typical

seductive tactic of the woman. After Odysseus sleep with her he then forces her

to turn his men back into men and after a year he leaves.

Homer holds a double standard for the morality of men and women. In the

beginning of the book there is a story about a king named Agamemnon. While

Agamemnon was away Aigisthos stole Agamemnon’s wife and killed then killed

him. But when Agamemnon’s son, Orestes, came of age he killed Aigithos and

his mother. Zeus says “Now he [Aigisthos] has paid the reckoning in full.” (I, 62)

What Zeus means by that is Aigithos got was he deserved and so did

Agamemnon’s immoral wife. But if Homer feels that adultery is wrong, why does

he not condemn the adultery of Odysseus? Never does Homer mention that

Odysseus should not be sleeping with all these women because his wife

Penelope is at home and loves him very much? And not only does Homer not

condemn the actions of Odysseus he accuses Kalypso and Kerke of seducing

Odysseus into their respective beds of lust. When Odysseus uses his love it is

seen a tactic to find a way to get home to his beloved wife and his beloved

countrymen. But when women use their love it is used for nothing but the

furthering of their own ends.

The Odyssey is not without good women- or women that Homer feels are

good women. The perfect example of such a woman is Penelope, Odysseus’s

wife. She uses her feminine cleverness and cunning towards helping her

husband. She convinces the suitors that she working on a shroud for her

husband so that she can we be with her beloved Odysseus (who by the way is

off sleeping with other women). It seems that the ideal woman is one who sits

faithfully at home, while her husband goes off to fight wars and have adventures.

It is not fair for Homer is have these double standard for male and female

heroes/heroines- the man can leave his wife at home and go off and sleep with

women other than his wife. But the woman should stay at home, she should be

noble and not remarry even if her husband does not return for twenty years and

it is simply out of the question for her to have an affair even if her husband is

having numerous ones.

In The Odyssey women are generally portrayed as manipulative and

deceitful and Homer is a sexist who holds a double standard of morality for men

and for women. Even though there are women who are considers good they are

seen as good because they are subservient to their husbands. Homer also holds

a double standard when it comes to what defines a moral man and what defines

a moral woman.


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