Women in the Odyssey

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Courtney Verblaauw
Literature I
Dr. Graves
October 8, 2010
The Unethical Depiction of Women in Homer’s The Odyssey
In Homer’s The Odyssey, women are depicted and morally seen as “the controlled” ones with the men being “the controllers.” The treatment of the women by men can most certainly be exemplified as sexist. Unfortunately, women are only acknowledged and viewed differently based upon their physical appearance. Throughout The Odyssey, the imperative men deem a woman rewarding if she is beautiful. Women are also acknowledged if their husband or son is a hero, or if the woman is a goddess. The reader sees various types of women throughout this journey, with Penelope, Calypso, and Athena being the most important. Not once are these women’s accomplishments in life mentioned. Only their family members, affairs with men, and beauty are recognized. It is unethical that the women of The Odyssey are depicted as weaker and less authoritative then the men.

Penelope, the beautiful and faithful wife of Odysseus, is only recognized throughout The Odyssey because she has the kingdom while her husband is gone. The suitors horde around her at all hours. She has no control over them or what they do. All the suitors essentially want is not only the kingdom, but also her wealth. Penelope stays loyal to Odysseus and refuses to marry any of the suitors. This makes them not respect her even more and continue to dig deeper into her riches. Even Penelope’s own son, Telemachus, does not respect her. When the song of the minstrel is sung it makes her distressed and she wishes for it to stop but surprisingly Telemachus does not tell the minstrel to stop. He instead replies, “Mother, why begrudge our singer entertaining us as he thinks best? Singers are not responsible; Zeus is, who gives what he wants to every man on earth” (I, 366-369). In essence, Homer unethically portrays Penelope as the ideal wife. Her beauty lures the suitors attention to her in the wrong ways but she still stays faithful to Odysseus even though he had been gone for years and disloyal to her numerous times.

Additionally there is Calypso who is known as the nymph with picturesque looks, and child of Zeus. When Odysseus is trapped on her island, she mainly is used as his sex slave. However, when the male gods decide that it is time for Odysseus to leave her island she whines and conveys an emotional indictment of the male gods and their double standards. “You gods are the most jealous bastards in the universe—persecuting any goddess who ever openly takes a mortal lover to her bed and sleeps with him” (V, 118-120). Here Calypso complains that the male gods are permitted to take mortal lovers while the relationships of the female gods must always be disturbed. She then shows Odysseus that she has more power than most women and can grant him immortality. Calypso states to him, “I don’t mind saying she’s not my equal in beauty, no matter how you measure it. Mortal beauty cannot compare with immortal” (V, 211-213). Sadly this immense power that she has will not even convince him to stay. Unethically, this shows how Homer trapped one of the most attractive women of that time on an island because of her powers. This perfectly shows that the male gods would rather see her lonely and secluded rather then free to use her dominance.

The Olympian “grey eyed” goddess, also known as Athena, is another women figure that is highlighted throughout The Odyssey. As all goddesses are depicted, she has a thin figure, gorgeous brown curling hair which streams from her head tenderly down to her slender waist, perfect skin, and has a pair of striking blue glistening eyes that mesmerize any mortal at first sight. Athena is another extremely powerful woman that is respected and praised to. Unfortunately, this is only true because she is a goddess. Athena is not seen for her kind heart but rather that she is a beautiful goddess that can help grant morals heroic deeds. She always seems to...
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