Women In Homer's Odyssey Essay

1961 words - 8 pages

 
    As Agamemnon tells Odysseus, “Let it be a warning even to you. Indulge a woman never, and never tell her all you know. Some things a man may tell, some he should cover up.” (P.199, Book XI) This is not a revelation for the wayward King. Odysseus treats all women he encounters with the same caution alluded to by Agamemnon when the shade tells him how his treacherous wife Clytemnestra acted in a way that defiled all women kind. Agamemnon is giving words to the concept of women that existed in Greek times, and still exists today although it is hopefully not expressed as much. Even before Odysseus speaks to his dead friend, he reveals the same attitude in the encounters that he has with women along his journey home. Each and every major female character Odysseus comes into contact with uses deception if not to Odysseus directly then to the outside world. In turn, the wandering King deals in deception with them as well.

            The first woman that we see in direct contact with Odysseus is Kalypso. This Goddess is no stranger to deceit. She has been hiding from the Gods for 7 years something that is unnatural. She has been hiding her affair with the mortal Odysseus, who has been held captive on her island for that time. She is not innocent in her relationship with Odysseus either, as she promises immortality to him as long as he will stay there with her. Both of these transgressions are against the natural order. All though the Gods in Greek times were much more human that in other cultures, it was not tolerated for them to behave with mortals in this way, as explained by Kalypso’s arguments with Hermes about why the two should have to separate. Odysseus for his part is not without a lie of his own; although in this particular case it may be that it is more a self-delusion than an outward lie. Odysseus cries every morning on the shores of the island, longing for home. But he also goes back to bed with Kalypso every night, showing an apathetic nature that constitutes a rare weakness on the part of the King. Very seldom is he shown in such an unflattering light. This self-delusion is a part of his need to deceive. A Goddess is not as susceptible to a lie as a mortal woman, and so Odysseus deceives himself to compensate. Most of his other confrontations are not as subtle.

            His encounter with Kirke, for instance, is a much cleaner deception, on the part of the adventurer and the Goddess. Kirke lures the men into her cave with promises of food and treasure, but then transforms them into animals. Odysseus’ men, famished from their days at sea, let down their guard and approach the cave. When they are trapped, Odysseus does not hesitate to come and rescue them. His answer to the Goddess is another deception, a similar tactic to that of all the various encounters that he has, both with women and with men for that matter. This time the lie is in his concealed knowledge, and a potion, both given to him by a helpful God to speed...

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