Essay Example on Women in the Odyssey

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George Washington University
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From the male point of view by Ibsen, in the present day society, women cannot be autonomous because they are under laws that men frame. Furthermore, the judicial system judges are biased against women. Similarly, the ancient Greek society as portrayed in the Odyssey face a similar challenge; the women are considered weak and powerless. The men in the Greek community play dominant roles, they direct, control and organize the community. Although women are valued, they are expected to possess particular traits and complete specific duties that men demand (Bahadur 2013).Women are treated as substandard and inhabit inferior and subservient positions in the society. A detailed study of all women in the Odyssey outlines that women are different from in several aspects and unequal over men.

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A key instance of the significance of the roles of women in the Odyssey is the role of seductresses. Odysseus' crew arrives on Circe's island, and they are attracted to Circe's house for the alluring voice of the lovely but outrageous goddess. Homer describes her as "singing in a sweet voice as she walked in a great design such as goddess have, slight and lovely and magnificent in their work (Schein, 1966). Odysseus' men react to this by signaling onto her and getting into her house. The men's longing for Circe allows the goddess to exploit their weaknesses, fake them and mysteriously turn them into swine. Odysseus, only, with the help of a defensive drug and guidance delivered by Hermes, goes to salvage his men from Circe's island. He adheres to Hermes' precise instructions, and when the goddess tries to assault him with the sword, he grabs the sword. Odysseus pulls his sword and says, swear me an inordinate oath that there is no another evil hurt you will create against me (Bahadur2013). Homer has Odysseus draw his sword at the moment; probably he aims to show how a woman's appeal and sexuality is a threat to male supremacy. Such connections among men and women add a specific and dynamic attention to the epic and make it prettier and easier for the reader to identify with the story. Although Odysseus is very artful and capable, several times he even finds himself lost when he is in these types of circumstances with seductive women. Odysseus was so besotted with Circe that he stayed on her island for a year, fully forgetting nearly his homecoming till his kinsmen persuaded to leave him.

The relationship between Odysseus and his wife Penelope is another clear exhibition of gender roles within Homer's epic. Penelope is the most important female character in the story due to her faithfulness (Cohen, 1995). Odysseus' return is affiliated on his love for her. Besides being her wife, she is also the mom of his son, Telemachus. Since Odysseus is apparently dead, most of the suitors desire to replace him, by marrying his wife and possess Odysseus' property (Bahadur, 2013). While we are irresolute of Penelope's attitudes to some of suitors we are always retold of her faithfulness to Odysseus.Penelope should not let in to the temptation of the suitors to confirm that Odysseus has a successful return. Even though Odysseus does not know if Penelope remains dedicated to him, the epic would be futile if he had given up to return to a broken home.(Davison, 1971). This condition once again brings up the enquiry of a double customary posed in the Odyssey (Schein, 1966). Odysseus is allowed to sleep with many of the nymphs he comes across, but Penelope should be faithful and wait for him. Therefore, this can be understood as reestablishing the Homeric Greek epitome of women being subordinate to men. Observing this condition from a different dimension; however, it is likely that Penelope's only reason for remaining loyal to Odysseus is to guard her freedom and not to live her standard. Penelope has three choices: she may remarry, go back to her father's home for his care, or wait for the revisiting of her husband (Doherty, 1995). Telemachus is the man of the house, but he lacks the bravery and skill to run the household.The suitors were able to seize his power. Penelope proves to be discerning, like her husband, when she tricks the suitors, requesting to choose one once she finishes a burial shroud for Laertes, the father-in-law. Every night she opens the weaving she has done for the day (Cohen, 1995). The trick works until some of her house domestics catch her. Another instance of this scam is her undertaking to marry one of the suitors that strings and shoots Odysseus's curtsy. It is apparent that Penelope knew that other than Odysseus no one else could do that.

There are many different interpretations of Penelope's role as a woman in this moment of the story. It is possible that she restores the ideal Greek woman, but I tend to believe that Homer, once again, was trying to show the manipulative nature of women as Penelope exhibits many of the great features that Odysseus, a man, possesses (Schein, 1966).

The mothers, throughout the Odyssey, are supportive and caring figures that are shown to give plenty of pity and grief, as an alternative of supporting their sons and husbands as far as in missions of military and personal matters. In numerous of the incidences of these figures in the story, they are the same people who deserve guidance and support, because they are revealed to be the weak and fragile type (Schein, 1966). Dispossessed of the men that, usually, are caring in their control, these motherly figures are heartbroken and have gone awry (Bahadur, 2013). In another illustration, Homer mentions Anticlea, the mother of Odysseus, is dying since she longs for her son, as contrasting to dying from any infection.

In conclusion, the role of women in The Odyssey has been subject to the control of men. Although the women are termed to be subservient, inferior and substandard in the society, they have played significance roles throughout the epic. They have been seductresses of the epic during the voyage to the circles island. They have also displayed the position of being faithfulness and loyal to their marriage regardless the immorality of their husbands.


Bahadur, G. (2013). Coolie woman: The odyssey of indenture.

Cohen, B. (1995). The distaff side: Representing the female in Homer's Odyssey. New York: Oxford University PressTop of Form

Davison, M. C. (1971). The metamorphoses of Odysseus: a study of romance iconography from the Odyssey to the The tempest.

Bottom of Form

Doherty, L. E. (1995). Siren songs: Gender, audiences, and narrators in the Odyssey. Ann Arbor: Univ. of MichiganPress

Schein, S. L. (1966). Reading the Odyssey: Selected interpretive essays. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press


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