Women in Homer's Odyssey, Joyce's Ulysses and Walcott's Omeros

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Women in Homer's Odyssey, Joyce's Ulysses and Walcott's Omeros

This essay explores the role of women in Homer's Odyssey, James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) and Derrick Walcott's Omeros (1990), epics written in very different historical periods. Common to all three epics are women as the transforming figure in a man's life, both in the capacity of a harlot and as wife.

In Homer's Odyssey, Kirke, represents the catalyst who encourages Odysseus's transformation into a mature man. Homer uses Kirke, a godly nymph who displays divine powers, to portray the harlot. After sailing away from the Laistryones, Odysseus and his crew land on Aiaia. They disembark and scavenge the island for food, but instead find the nymph in her palace. Empowered by the gods to bewitch the crew, Kirke turns Odysseus's men into swine. Homer uses the word swine to describe the soldier's subconscious state of mind after years at war that involves raping women and plundering towns. "For ten years, [they] had been in Troy, fighting a war in a he-man world, where no dialogue between men and women takes place.." (Campbell 54). Both divine and mortal, the gods immunize Odysseus by sending the messenger, Hermes, with the black root and milky white substance to neutralize Kirke's power. 'The Lady Kirke mixed me a golden cup of honey wine, adding in mischief her unholy drug" (Homer 175). Casting her spell and thinking it took, Kirke sends Odysseus to lie with his crew in the sty. "Down in the sty and snore among the rest!" (Homer 175). Kirke's brew failing, Odysseus draws his sharpened sword and in one bound places it against her throat. Kirke asserts her power and Odysseus subverts it, a tryst the gods deploy to rid Odysseus of his rogue and a...

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...racelets. Smelling her aroma, feeling the air stir from her passing, mesmerized by the serpentine grace of her body, he could do nothing but acknowledge her power. When Maud dies, Major Plunkett makes his home on the island where he commemorates the life of the woman he loves, Helen.

Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: On the Art of James Joyce. New York: Harper Collins, 1993.

Mamner, Robert D. Epic of the Dispossessed: Derek Walcott's Omeros. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997.

Hexter, Ralph. A Guide to The Odyssey: A Commentary on the English Translation of Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Random House, 1993.

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Random House, 1990.

Joyce, James. Ulysses. New York: Random House, 1986.

Walcott, Derek. Omeros. New York: Harper Collins, 1990.
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