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Women in the Odyssey

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  • November 29, 2010
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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...