The Odyssey: Calypso And Circe Paper Essay, Research Paper
4) “The Nature of Women Portrayed by Circe and Calypso
In Homer’s composition, The Odyssey, the roles women play are very significant. The best examples of the true nature of women occur when Odysseus encounters Circe and Calypso. These two characters illustrate the thoughts and feelings of how women how a woman feels and how they think. As the quote states, Circe and Calypso illustrate how women really can be crafty, intelligent, sneaky, disloyal, and cruel. In contrast to battles with men, Cyclops, or animals, sexual battles with women are sometimes much more difficult to win.
These two female characters are especially enticing to Odysseus because they are goddesses. Though it is evident that Odysseus longs to return to Penelope in Ithaca, it sometimes appears that he has lost vision of what life was like with a wife, a son, and with thousands of people who regard him as King. Although his experiences on the islands of these goddesses were similar in that he was retained from Ithaca for the longest periods of his adventure, these goddesses and the ways that Odysseus reacts to his experiences with them represent two very different aspects of Odysseus’ life and disposition in life. When Odysseus and his men arrive on Circe’s island, they are still in fairly good shape. In Book X, lines 194-196, Odysseus says: “I climbed to a rocky place of observation and looked at the island, and the endless sea lies all in a circle around it.” I believe this illuminates a very important aspect in Circe’s tendencies. She doesn’t seem to want to cause any real harm to the men, but wishes to encircle these men with her food, wine, and lust. She seems to be obsessed with lust and material possessions, and it is my belief that she represents all that is weak in women (at least in Homer’s time). In lines 294-296, Hermes is consulting Odysseus on how to avoid harm from Circe: “rush forward against Circe, as if you were raging to kill her, and she will be afraid, and invite you to go to bed with her.” Circe also shows us as readers Odysseus’ weakness towards lust and sexuality. This time spent on Circe’s island was a test of whether he could resist lust from a goddess, and he fails. At first it appears as though the only reason Odysseus sleeps with Circe is to regain his companions, but she easily persuades them to stay. What makes it worse is the fact that Odysseus is not even the first one ready to go. His men are the ones who urge him to leave: “What ails you now? It is time to think about our own country” (Book X, line 472). At a glance, it appears that Odysseus is merely succumbing to Circe’s schemes for reasons related to their health and well being, if we read between the lines, we soon begin to realize that Odysseus is weak in the voracious hands of lust. Odysseus arrives on Calypso’s island in her cave. At first, it seems like Odysseus doesn’t seem much to mind her taking care of him, but over time it is plainly evident that he is unhappy with her. When Hermes arrives on Calypso’s island to give her the message from Zeus to release Odysseus, he is bawling on the beach– a daylong activity for him. Calypso is holding him with her by force; she has no companions to help him back to Ithaca, nor has she a ship to send him in. Athena pleads with Zeus to give Odysseus good fortune, saying that “he lies away on an island suffering strong pains in the palace of the nymph Calypso, and she detains him by constraint, and he cannot make his way to his country, for he has not any ships by him, nor any companions who can convey him back across the sea’s wide ridges” (Book V, lines 13-17). Odysseus’s visit to Calypso island, and his prolonged stay, shows his tender side, when he is separated by death from his crew, knowing he has no choice but to remain with Calypso, yet he still mourns for Penelope, Telemachus, and Ithaca. Calypso feels it is her right to keep Odysseus. After all, it was her nurture and love that saved him from death. She loves him and wanted to make him immortal with her so they could live together for all eternity, but he still longs to return to his home. This shows Odysseus’ hope, determination, and tremendous love for his home. Most people would have given up hope by this time. Odysseus’ experience with Calypso reflects his strength and diligence, though he cries all day everyday. It is quite ironic. Calypso seems to represent womanly jealousy. She knows he has a wife waiting in Ithaca for him, yet she continues to retain him for her own selfish happiness. She seems to be a little unsure if she is greater in beauty than Penelope when she assures Odysseus that she exceeds Penelope by far in that area. It seems that she knew what his reply would be and merely wanted to hear it from his mouth.
Circe and Calypso are two very prominent setbacks in Odysseus’ return to Ithaca. I believe the reason these two places detained him for longer than any other place was because Odysseus, when in the presence of these beautiful goddesses, was weakened severely. It’s the common, timeless story of the power women hold over men when it comes to sex.