The Role of Women in Homer's The Odyssey
Women form an important part of the folk epic, written by Homer, The Odyssey. Within the story there are three basic types of women: the goddess, the seductress, and the good hostess/wife. Each role adds a different element and is essential to the telling of the story.
The role of the goddess is one of a supernatural being, but more importantly one in a position to pity and help mortals. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is the most prominent example of the role; in the very beginning of the story she is seen making a plea for Odysseus' return home, and throughout the first half of the book she assists him in his journey. She is the driving force behind arranging Odysseus' return home from getting Kalypso to release him to making sure Nausikaa found him on Skheria. In books 1-4 she helps Telemakhos, Odysseus' son, gather the courage to go out and get news about his father. Other than Athena, there are many examples of goddesses taking pity on a mortal, usually Odysseus, and helping him out. When Odysseus is suffering in a storm that Poseidon sent for him, Ino, a Nereid, gives him an immortal veil that saves his life. Even Kirke and Kalypso help Odysseus tremendously with information and supplies. It is the Role of the woman goddess and not the male god to pity and proffer help to the suffering mortal.
The next and less benevolent role is that of the seductress. Two stories about such women referred to in The Odyssey are those of the half-sisters Helen and Klytaimnestra. The entire Trojan War was caused by Helen's unfaithfulness to Menelaos; her affair caused many deaths and Odysseus would not have had to leave home if she had not run away with Paris. The other sister also caused pain and suffering by having an affair and then killing her husband, Agamemnon, with her lover on his homecoming day. The seductress is always looked upon as dangerous and harmful to...