Aristotle called this poem 'a story of character' which is very true, as the analysis of people in the Odyssey id detailed and they are carefully depicted. Though the women still remain a fairly mysterious force that test Odysseus' determination for 'nostos' (hero's return home), requiring the man whose words are "like snowflakes" to use every trick he has to evade their threat, his civility not allowing him to strike them.
In the Underworld, Agamemnon made it very clear in his enlightened state (consider the wiser Achilles who now regrets his noble death - "rather work the soil as a serf...than be King of all these lifeless dead" 11.490), as one of the dead that women "are no longer to be trusted". It is no co-incidence then that the female figures that Odysseus meets after this point are the most ferocious and dangerous. Both Scylla and Charybdis are hideous monsters, depicted as female, and so too are the tempting Sirens, all which test the hero. It is evidence that even after all his endeavours, Odysseus is still an Iliadic hero at heart, as he dons his armour uselessly to face Scylla's 12-headed threat and look at the good it does him ("Obstinate fool" 12.115). The actions of Odysseus' men result in him swimming in the sea and hanging over the swirling Charybdis, holding onto a fig tree ("clung like a bat" 12.433). Without warning from Circe, Odysseus would not have gone past the Sirens without doom, since we see what the effect was without the wax in his ears ("longing to listen...set me free" 12.193). However, it is the humanoid females which are to add the most to the poem. The monsters test and batter the hero whilst the women test the man.
To threaten Odysseu...
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...ly). When he wishes to leave also, no effort is made by Circe to try and stop him unlike her counterpart above, Calypso ("do not stay on unwillingly" 10.484). Odysseus has been kept for the pleasure of Circe and he could have left at any time. This tarnishes our view of the hero's withstanding of the females' subtle threat.
Whether successfully or unsuccessfully, the female figure of the Odyssey all attempt to stop Odysseus on his inexorable journey home to his own female. Portrayed in contrasting depictions to draw out emphasis and focused details, the women and monsters threaten the hero in slightly different ways each time, testing Odysseus' flexibility and forcing him to break the Iliadic mould.
Homer (Translated by Robert Fagles. Preface by Bernard Knox). 1996. The Odyssey. New York: Viking Penguin, div. of Penguin Books, Ltd.
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