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Gender Roles In The Odyssey Essay

Although it is clear women in Homer’s The Odyssey are hierarchically lower than men, and have to follow societal norms and the orders of men, women also have the power to disrupt and distract Odysseus’ journey home. Men have clear dominance over the lives of women throughout The Odyssey and make choices for them in instances even when they are completely capable. This is evident even with mother-son relationships. Telemachus commands Penelope, his own mother to “go back to [her] quarters. Tend to [her] own tasks, the distaff and the loom, and keep the women working hard as well.

As for giving orders, men will see to that, but I most of all: I hold the reins of power in this house” (Odyssey 89). This is such a normal thing, for men to control their mother’s lives and to talk to them in this way that no one is surprised Telemachus is speaking to his own mother this way. Penelope then, “withdrew to her own room. She took to heart the clear good sense in what her son had said” (89). This act of obedience really shows how embedded the dominance of men is in society, that sons command mothers and brothers command sisters.

That women barely have any choices, even mothers over their own son. Penelope is very competent and is more than capable of making choices for herself, but the men in her life tell her what to do. Even outside of the household, women who are hardworking are still treated poorly, and commanded to do things. In Phaeacia, the queen of the Phaeacians is preparing to give a gift to Odysseus. She harshly yells at her maids, “set a great three- legged cauldron over the fire-do it right away! ” (205) Instead of asking nicely, the queen demands.

This command from the queen shows that even the nicest of rulers, such as the ruler of the Phaeacians, who are so kind and helpful, are dismissive to omen. It is clear that men insist on societal norms as well, making sure women are doing what they are supposed to. The certain roles of women are very exact in ancient Greece in what different statuses and genders are supposed. As for labor, they are merely housewives. Both men and women work, but men have hardworking, strenuous jobs, while women do housework and other simple undermining tasks.

As Odysseus is explaining his journeys, he makes it apparent that “just as Phaeacian men excel the world at sailing, driving their swift ships on the open seas, so the women excel at all the arts of weaving. ” (183) Women do the unimportant jobs, the simplest tasks that anyone could do. Weaving even may not be the simplest task in the world, but it definitely is less important and less labor intensive than fighting or lifting things. Women aren’t allowed to go fight or to do physical labor. This declaration shows what women did in ancient Greece and shows how unfairly they are treated.

Men have a big impact on women throughout time and especially in ancient Greece. Men are the ones that create the hardships and societal norms for women. Men create the double standards for women as well, making it hard for them to ive their life how they want it, without being judged or punished. There is a tremendous double standard on women that is very unfair and unjust, but it has been woven into society even between the gods. When Odysseus returns home, and kills the suitors, he realizes that some of his maids have had sex with the suitors.

He characterizes them as “the maids who whored in the suitors’ beds each night” (410) They were doing as they please and didn’t think anything of it. Yet, because they are women, Odysseus, and all men for that matter, believe women should be punished if they have sex with a lot of men, because hey aren’t supposed to according to unspoken rules in society. Women are supposed to only lay in bed with the one they marry and stay loyal, one who has sex with others is a disgrace to society.

Men on the other hand, have sex with as many women as they like and receive glory for it. This is exactly what happens with Odysseus and Penelope. As Odysseus returns and reunites with his beloved Penelope. They regale each other with what has happened to them. Penelope goes on and on about how she has been loyal but “great Odysseus told his wife of all the pains he had dealt out to other men and all the hardships he’d ndured himself – his story first to last – and she listened on, enchanted… ” (465) Nothing about his sex with all the other women along his journey.

This means that although he has numerous other intimate relationships with women along his journey, he wants to give a semblance of loyalty to Penelope. Although he most likely would be glorified if he shared it, he doesn’t. Most likely nothing would happen if he shared it. This withholding of information shows that women are expected to remain loyal no matter the circumstances. Among gods as well, is this double standard present. Calypso is distraught with this tandard for women between gods and mortals. She explodes in a, “flight of indignation, ‘Hard-hearted you are, you gods?

You unrivaled lords of jealousy- scandalized when goddesses sleep with mortals, openly, even when one has made the man her husband” (156) This not only explains the double standard in ancient Greece, but it proves that gods are affected as well by mortal society. Women and goddess’ alike can’t have sex with a man without being judged harshly. The double standard on women of all status’ is truly overwhelming in how unjust it is. Not only is this double standard a hardship on women in ncient Greece, but it plays into the how much power women actually have throughout the epic.

Women may not have power over men in ancient Greece, but Homer gives them the power to distract, tempt, and disrupt Odysseus and his journey home. Odysseus is held hostage on Calypso’s island for seven years. Day after day, Odysseus is “alone… his heart set on his wife and his return-Calypso the bewitching nymph, the lustrous goddess, held him deep in her arching caverns, craving him for a husband… Off he sat on a headland, weeping there as always, wrenching his heart with obs and groans and anguish gazing out at the barren sea through blinding tears. 78, 155)

Calypso keeps Odysseus on her island for a whole seven years. This isn’t even half the time he is away from home, but Calypso breaks Odysseus down. Making him feel worthless, and as though he will never return home. This proves that women are a major factor in why Odysseus comes home a broken, changed man, twenty years after the war is over. The same thing happens with Circe on her island. Circe manages to halt Odysseus’ journey for a year. She tempted, offered food and weakened his spirits in getting home. This is how “she enticed and won [Odysseus’] battle-hardened spirit over.

And there [on Circe’s island, he] sat at ease, day in, day out, till a year had run its course… ” (245) Circe’s purpose in the epic is to stop and prolong Odysseus’ journey home. She not only is good at fulfilling her purpose she exceeds how long most other women Odysseus interacts with prolong his journey. This shows that even the goddess’, who are above all mortal men, are given power over men in order to disrupt Odysseus’ journey home. Scylla is yet another example of how women and immortal goddesses are used to try and stop Odysseus from etting home.

Scylla is a monster that no man can pass. No god nor mortal can even look at her with joy. All who come face-to- face with her are bound to lose men because “she has twelve long swaying necks. A hideous head on each, each head barbed with a triple row of fangs, thickset, packed tight-and armed to the hilt with black death! ” (275) Right after Scylla attacks them and Odysseus loses his men, he makes it clear that, “of all the things [he’s] had to witness… this wrenched [his] heart the most. ” (279) This greatly impacts Odysseus’ journey by making his journey take longer and more dreadful.

Not only does he lose a lot of his own men, six to be exact, but these loses devastate him the most. Odysseus could quite possibly get home a lot faster if he still had the men he lost, because the extra men would help him with other difficulties on his journey as well as getting home. Scylla not only took six of his beloved men, but she destroyed his morale. He is devastated by the death of his friends and shipmates. Almost all the women in the story who are important in Odysseus’ journey home, set him back, further from reaching his home, rather than helping him.

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