The Role of Woman in The Odyssey

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Although “The Odyssey” by the Greek poet Homer is very much an epic tale of a man’s heroic quest, women play an incredibly large role. Homer’s epic tale, “The Odyssey” revolves around Ulysses’ quest to return back to his wife, Penelope, so that he may be reunited with her and assume control over his palace, which has been overrun by suitors. Ulysses’ son, Telemachus attempts to regain authority in the presence of the many suitors but finds this difficult and embarks upon his own journey under the guidance of Athena and other deities. The main thrust of Homer’s “The Odyssey” centers upon the adventures of Homer as he endeavors to get back home, which he finally does. He overtakes the suitors through his cunning and the tale ends happily. Throughout “The Odyssey” by Homer however, there are quite limited presentations of women and many of them, if not servant girls or deities, are assigned to the narrow role of mothers, seductresses, or some combination of both. Mothers are persistent figures throughout “The Odyssey” and are seen as the givers of pity and sorrow rather than true “supporters” of their sons and husbands in terms of military or personal quests. In most instances of depictions of mother figures in “The Odyssey”, these are women in need of support and guidance as they are weak and fragile. Without a steady male hand to guide them, these women appear to be lost and inconsolable. As one scholar notes, “Telemachus first asserted his manhood by ordering Penelope from the public rooms of the palace, indicating to the suitors of his intention to assert his claim to his father’s throne. The dependence of mothers on their son’s devotion to them is made clear elsewhere in Homer, as in the case of Anticlea and her statement that she died not of illness but of longing for her son Odysseus” (Pomeroy 28). The mothers in this text serve little function aside from mourning their men and urging them to remain safe, which is an important notion because much of the...
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