Portrayal of Women in Homer's Odyssey

Portrayal of Women in Homer's Odyssey

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The Odyssey:  Portrayal of Women


How does Homer portray women in the epic, The Odyssey?  In order to
answer this question you must look at woman and goddesses as two separate
groups of "people".  This is because they are portrayed in tow separate ways.
 You see, a regular woman like Penelope is looked at as beautiful but has
very few rights. 

    If we first look at Penelope we see how beautiful she must be, because we
know that she has a lot of suitors staying at her house and they all want to
marry her.  It is not until later on that we find out how low in society
mortal women are.  The first time this is shown is when Telemukus has to
choose one of the suitors to be his mother's husband.  Now just think that a
son has more power in this society than his own mother.  From Telemukus'
stand point this must be a big moment for him because he is now looked at as
a man, cause he has to choose a wife for his mother, but for Penelope, she
must feel degraded and low. 

    On the other hand if you look at a goddess like Athena, "the gray eyed
goddess," (many pages) who is actually running the show, she has much more
power than many men do.  For instance she is able to convince Zeus, ruler of
all gods, that Odysseus has suffered enough and to set him free.  Eventually
Odysseus is set free over the demands of Poseidon. 

You can also look at Calypso and see how this near goddess, nymph, has power.
 This is shown as Odysseus is leaving and she asks him if he would want to be
immortal in return for him staying with her forever.  This shows that she has
power, more than many women, and can grant anyone immortality.  Homer also
describes her as lucky, that she is beautiful, but you can tell that inside
Calypso is very lonely.  This portrayal of Calypso is also seen is the song
written by Susan Vega.  In this song Calypso is seen as a sad and lonely
woman who is trapped on an island forever.

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  This is a very different picture
than Homer paints for us.

    In conclusion, woman are portrayed differently depending upon who they
are.  But like men, the gods are at the top of the pyramid, the son of a god
is in the middle, and a regular man is at the bottom.  As you can see men and
woman were treated quite similar, but when in fact if you were at the same
stage in the pyramid, than the man was higher, and had more power, than the
women.
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