Women in The Odyssey

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Women play an influential role in The Odyssey. Women appear throughout the story, as goddesses, wives, princesses, or servants. The nymph Calypso enslaves Odysseus for many years. Odysseus desires to reach home and his wife Penelope. It is the goddess Athena who sets the action of The Odyssey rolling; she also guides and orchestrates everything to Odysseus’ good. Women in The Odyssey are divided into two classes: seductresses and helpmeets. By doing so, Homer demonstrates that women have the power to either hinder of help men. Only one woman is able to successfully combine elements of both classes: Penelope. She serves as a role model of virtue and craftiness. All the other women are compared to and contrasted with Penelope. The image of seductresses is a recurring motif in The Odyssey. These women are a temptation to Odysseus. They attempt to keep Odysseus from accomplishing his goal: his homecoming. Circe is a bewitching goddess. She entices Odysseus’ crew into her palace with her enchanting voice. However, after she feeds them, she promptly turns them into pigs. Circe also succeeds in enticing Odysseus; he stays with her one year as her lover. It is so long that his crew declares that it is “madness” (326). They say that it is “high time” that Odysseus thinks of his homeland (326). Later on, Odysseus and his crew encounter the sirens. Knowing the danger they pose, Odysseus has all his men’s ears stopped up with wax. However, Odysseus wishes to hear their song; so he asks his crew to tie him to the mast. The song of the sirens is so sweet and enticing. Their “ravishing voices” almost make Odysseus forget his desire to return home (349). His heart “throbbed” to listen longer; he signals for his men to let him go free. The grea... ... middle of paper ... ...ow Greek civilization was founded by women; they were the ones who gave birth to the heroes. Similarly, The Odyssey is a story created by women. The plot revolves around the actions of women. Athena orchestrates all the events. The seductresses, such as Circe, the sirens, and Calypso, attempt to stop Odysseus from reaching home. The helpmeets, such as Nausicaa, Arete, and Athena, aid Odysseus in his homecoming. The wise and virtuous Penelope is the object of Odysseus’ quest. Unlike Helen who forsakes her husband, Penelope remains faithful. Unlike Clytemnestra who assassinates her husband, Penelope patiently waits for Odysseus. She becomes a model of female patience and of female intelligence. Her craftiness is the only one which can match up to Odysseus’. The Odyssey presents a wide array of women and demonstrates the influence that women have in the life of a hero.

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