Gender in the Odyssey Essay

Gender in the Odyssey Essay

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Odysseus' values and character traits serve as a paradigm of the ideal Homeric Greek man. The "god-like Odysseus" is crafty, valiant, wise, and eloquent. He gains much of his knowledge through travel, the meeting of different cultures and peoples and learns from suffering and mistakes. He is an aristocrat and a warrior of all warriors. We first learn of many of these traits in Homer's Iliad. Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek army always calls on Odysseus for assignments that required someone cunning and brilliant. Agamemnon sends Odysseus to ask Achilles to return to the army and sends him with Diomedes into the Trojan camp to attain information. Odysseus has to be sly and quick so the Trojans do not catch him. Homer describes them as "two lions stalking through the carnage and the corpses."(Book X, Line 297) However, these traits and Odysseus' ability are constantly challenged by the temptation of women. In the Odyssey, myriad examples of such temptation reflect the importance of gender and the role of women. Odysseus' numerous interactions with women make this influence clear.

A prime example of the importance of the roles of women in the Odyssey is their roles as seductresses. When Odysseus' crew arrives on Circe's island, they are attracted to Circe's house because of the alluring voice of the beautiful but monstrous goddess. Homer describes her as "singing in a sweet voice as she went up and down a great design on a loom, immortal such as goddesses have, delicate and lovely and glorious in their work."(Book X, Line 221) Odysseus' men respond to this by calling onto her and entering her house. The men's desire for Circe allows the goddess to exploit their weaknesses, trick them and magically turn them int...


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...s the ideal Greek woman, but I prefer to believe that Homer, once again, was trying to show the manipulative nature of women as Penelope exhibits many of the great attributes that Odysseus, a man, possesses.

It is interesting to analyze the gender problematic in the Odyssey through the lens of the roles of women in this epic. This epic is dependant on the role of women. It is difficult to completely judge the beliefs about the gender roles in Greek culture based solely on the Odyssey. At times, the roles and actions of women in this poem show the male chauvinist view, that they are objects of beauty and have to succumb to manipulation and trickery to accomplish a goal. There are other times when a woman's strength and intelligence come through. Homer uses this interplay to make the epic more interesting and develops an underlying theme of a battle of the sexes.

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