Exploring Gender Roles in The Odyssey Essay

Exploring Gender Roles in The Odyssey Essay

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For years upon years women have been looked at from all different lights and perspectives. In the past, for most cultures, most of these views placed women in less important household and societal positions as opposed to men. Women were most commonly seen as wives, mothers, and housekeepers, depending on their social class, whereas men took the head role as husband, father, provider, and protector. Men had and still have, in the majority of cases, all the power in the family. In Homer’s epic poems, The Odyssey as well as The Iliad, gender roles are very much established. I believe that in both of the epics women are not only portrayed unfairly they are portrayed inaccurately to an extent.
In The Iliad the most predominant portrayal of women is rather negative. Many of the female figures in the book are subjected to one of the lowest roles possible. Occurring quite often in the text is the referral of women as “war prizes” or “concubines.” These women are degraded down to nothing more than mere pieces of property and their bodies are objectified. The men have the option to do as they please with these women as if they have no say and are just another fancy jewel or sparkly piece of gold amongst the other things the men plunder. For example, in book 1 when Agamemnon must give up his war prize, he then spitefully demands Achilles war prize from him to make up for his loss, this in turn causes a dispute between the men. This just shows how belittled Achilles war prize, Briseis, becomes. The two grown men fight over her as if she is a stolen horse. Similarly, the whole war is kind of over the fact that Helen runs off with Paris, prince of Troy, and leaves her husband, Menelaus, behind. Menelaus views Helen as stolen property and is w...


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...omething frowned upon. This brings up the idea discussed in class that women are man’s greatest downfall. From the epics, one can assume that women are sneaky, manipulative, seductive, unfaithful, and disloyal beings that ensnare men and ultimately lead them to their destruction, whether physically or mentally. Not to say that there are not women like this in society but, portraying the majority of the female characters in this manner gives off the impression that women in general are all like that, which is most definitely not the case. Therefore the portrayal of these women is misleading and a little overdramatic.











Works Cited
Homer. The Iliad. Ed. Bernard Knox. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York, New York: Penguin Classics, 1990. Print.
Homer. The Odyssey. Ed. Bernard Knox. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York, Viking: Penguin Classics, 1996. Print.

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