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An Analysis of Homer's Odyssey

Topics: Odyssey, Odysseus, Marriage / Pages: 3 (692 words) / Published: Dec 7th, 2010
Throughout the first eighteen books of The Odyssey, one of the central themes in the epic is the double standard of fidelity in Odysseus’ time. Women who werent faithful were shunned in the society, but when Men were unfaithful, not much was made of it. The relationship of Penelope and Odysseus gives us a prime example of this as Penelope wards of the suitors, refusing to move on from Odysseus where as Odysseus was intimate with other women on numerous occasions on his journey back to his homeland of Ithaca. In books 1 and 2 a main focus of the story is placed on Penelope’s resistance towards the many numerous suitors courting her. Although its been twenty years since Odysseus first went off to war, and ten years since the war ended, Penelope feels some sense of entitlement to Odysseus, and uses her savyness to combat the suitors persistence. Penelope could easily choose one of the suitors to start a new life with and find happiness with but she doesn’t because she feels the continuing existence of Odysseus deep in her heart and isn’t ready to bring closure to their marriage. Penelope showed strong character early in the story by not giving up on Odysseus and having faith in him to return home one day. Penelope plays with the suitors minds and misleads them, risking her chance at ever remarrying in hopes that by some slim chance Odysseus is still alive. In today’s society, women are far more promiscuous, and a lot of those morals have gone out of the window, however there is still a double standard just not as bad as it was then. If a woman slept with more than one man in those times it was like commiting the worst kind of crime. Men had no way to really tell if a child was theirs or not unless they were the only man sleeping with their wife, so unlike today where paternity tests exists, certain questions could not be answered and it was better that woman played it safe than sorry. In todays culture, a woman would most likely move on after being courted so heavily after twenty years of loneliness. In book five the theme of the double-standard re-occurs when the Gods order Calypso to let Odysseus go so he may return home. Calypso passionately argues that is unfair that the Gods are allowed to have affairs with mortals but yet the Goddesses affairs are controlled by the men. Even the nonmortal have different expectations of how each gender may conduct themselves, which also touches upon Homer’s view of how he believes the Gods interact with each other and his expectations of their behaviors. On Odysseus’ epic journey back to Ithaca, he is not only sexually intimate with Calypso but he also spends a year as Circe’s lover. It’s very unfair that Penelope was at home being so faithful to Odysseus not even knowing he was still alive, but Odysseus unremorsefully spends the seasons making love to Circe as if he didn’t have a wife and kid back home. Earlier in the story Penelope was made out to be wrong for leading on the suitors, but Odysseus’ non marital relations with Circe are very palely described as if it is nothing out of the usual. Although today polygamy is still more often seen and accepted from men, it seems as if in the times of The Odyssey, women didn’t even have a right to be upset should their husband chose to love elsewhere, and neither did their husbands feel guilty about doing so. It’s very clear that in The Odyssey, the norms and expecations of women were far more strict than that of man, and that women were accepting of that role. Besides Calypso’s rebuttal to the Gods we didn’t see this double-standard challenged by another women. If Odysseus were a more modern man, his fate would clearly have been much less fortunate, and he would most likely come home to find that his family belonged to another man by then.

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