The islands of Circe and Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey are places where Odysseus’ most challenging problems occur. In contrast to battles with men, Cyclops, or animals, sexual battles with women are sometimes much more difficult to win. These two female characters are especially enticing to Odysseus because they are goddesses. Though it is evident that Odysseus longs to return to Penelope in Ithaka, it sometimes appears that he has lost vision of what life was like with a wife, a son, and with thousands of people who regard him as King. Although his experiences on the islands of these goddesses were similar in that he was retained from Ithaka for the longest periods of his adventure, these goddesses and the ways that Odysseus reacts to his experiences with them represent two very different aspects of Odysseus’ life and disposition in life.
When Odysseus and his men arrive on Circe’s island, they are still in fairly good shape. In Book X, lines 194-196, Odysseus says: "I climbed to a rocky place of observation and looked at the island, and the endless sea lies all in a circle around it" I believe this illuminates a very important aspect in Circe’s tendencies. She doesn’t seem to want to cause any real harm to the men, but wishes to encircle these men with her food, wine, and lust. She seems to be obsessed with lust and material possessions, and it is my belief that she represents all that is weak in women (at least in Homer’s time). In lines 294-296 Hermes is consulting Odysseus on how to avoid harm from Circe: "rush forward against Circe, as if you were raging to kill her, and she will be afraid, and invite you to go to bed with her."
Circe also shows us as readers Odysseus’ weakness t...
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...e. Odysseus’ experience with Calypso reflects his strength and diligence, though he cries all day everyday. How ironic. Calypso seems to represent womanly jealousy. She knows he has a wife waiting in Ithaka for him, yet she continues to retain him for her own selfish happiness. She seems to be a little unsure if she is greater in beauty than Penelope when she assures Odysseus that she exceeds Penelope by far in that area. It seems that she knew what his reply would be and merely wanted to hear it from his mouth. Typical.
Circe and Calypso are two very prominent setbacks in Odysseus’ return to Ithaka. I believe the reason these two places detained him for longer than any other place was because Odysseus, when in the presence of these beautiful goddesses, was weakened severely. It’s the common, timeless story of the power women hold over men when it comes to sex.
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