Men;S Treatment Of Women In The Odyssey Essay, Research Paper
The Treatment of Women by Men in Homer?s The Odyssey
Women in Homer?s The Odyssey are judged mainly by looks. If important men and gods consider a woman beautiful, or if her son is a hero or important king the woman is successful. The way women in The Odyssey are treated is based on appearance, the things men want from them, and whether the woman has any power over men.
During Odysseus? journey to the underworld he sees the shades of many prominent women. We hear about their beauty, their important sons, or their affairs with gods. We hear nothing about these women?s accomplishments in their lifetime. Odysseus tells how Antiope could ?boast a god for a lover,?(193) as could Tyro and many other women. Epikaste was called ?that prize?(195) her own son unwittingly married. Some women are known for the deeds of their sons, but never for a heroic deed of their own, their personalities, who they are, and what they do independent of males. It seems the only accomplishment women could achieve was being beautiful. Theseus ?had no joy of?(195) the princess Ariadne because she died before this was possible. Homer makes it sound as if Ariadne?s life was useless because she did not give Theseus pleasure. The only woman we hear of for a different reason is Klymene, and we only hear of her because she ?betrayed her lord for gold.?(195) This is the only time we hear of a woman for something she did, and once we do, it is a negative remark.
Penelope, Odysseus? queen, is paid attention to only because of her position. Because she has a kingdom, she has suitors crowding around her day and night. Being a woman, Penelope has no control over what the suitors do and cannot get rid of them. The suitors want her wealth and her kingdom. They do not respect her enough to stop feeding on Odysseus? wealth; they feel she owes them something because she won?t marry one of them. One of the suitors, Antinoos, tells Telemakhos ?…but you should know the suitors are not to blame- it is your own incomparably cunning mother.?(21)
Even Telemakhos doesn?t respect his mother as he should. When the song of a minstrel makes her sad and Penelope requests him to stop playing, Telemakhos intervenes and says to her ?Mother, why do you grudge our own dear minstrel joy of song, wherever his thought may lead.? (12) If Telemakhos respected his mother he would have asked the minstrel to cease playing the song that made her upset. Telemakhos has no use for Penelope?s beauty or position; he regards her as someone who causes a problem, but whom he must love anyway.
Through Penelope Homer shows how an ideal wife should feel toward her husband. Penelope remembers Odysseus as a great king and husband even though he has been gone for twenty years. Odysseus thinks of Penelope as his wife who, under all conditions, should be faithful to him no matter how many times he has been unfaithful or how long he has been gone, and Penelope fulfills this wish.
Athena seems to be the most admired female in the entire book. She is always spoken of respectfully and is remembered for her heroic deeds. She is not degraded like the shades of the women Odysseus sees in the underworld. Everyone worships her and speaks about her achievements with awe; she is truly admired, not only because she is a goddess. Athena has control over men that most women in the Odyssey do not. Women?s lives depend on what men think of them. On the contrary, men?s lives depend on Athena?s opinion of them. Unlike Athena most women are shown to be bad at heart or useless except for man?s pleasure. Athena is ?Zeus? virgin daughter? and no one has used her in that way. She is too important to be used as being enjoyment for men; they depend on her for their own welfare.
Men in The Odyssey only value women who they can use for physical needs and wealth, such as the shades in the underworld and Penelope, or women that can somehow hurt or punish them, such as Athena. Homer shows us how men in The Odyssey consider women less important then men. We rarely hear of women throughout the book. When we do, we are shown that men did not consider women important and are careless with their relationships with women, as we see in Odysseus? infidelity to Penelope. This is less true today since now infidelity works both ways, while Odysseus expected Penelope to stay faithful even after he was gone for twenty years and was unfaithful to her many times. Also today women are able to have accomplishments other than those of Penelope and the shades; they have the same opportunities and are treated as equals by men.