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.