Women in The Odyssey
In The Odyssey the main character, Odysseus, meets and entertains an
impressive array of women. All of the women that he meets are very different
and have different personalities and Homer clearly states his attitude towards
each of the women. Some of the women are seen as essentially 'good' or
essentially 'bad.' It is also clear that Homer adopts a sexist attitude towards the
women in his novel. In The Odyssey women are generally portrayed as
manipulative and deceitful and Homer is a sexist who holds a double standard of
morality for men and for women.
There is one thing that all the women, be they human or god, in The
Odyssey have in common: they are all very clever. There are two ways that the
reader can interpret this characteristic that women share: either Homer feels that
women are very intelligent or he feels that women are underhanded and sneaky.
The opinion of Homer is probably the latter because the most of the women that
Odysseus, the hero of the novel, encounters use their intelligence against him.
Kalypso and Kerke both try to seduce Odysseus into staying on their islands,
while Penelope uses her cleverness to trick the suitors into believing that it took
her three years to weave a shroud.
There are two goddesses that Homer wants the reader to perceive as
'bad' women: the goddesses Kalypso and Kerke. Kalypso is a goddess who kept
Odysseus on her island for seven years so she could have him. She is portrayed
at this very greedy and lustful nymph who seduces Odysseus into forgetting
about his home and "forces" him to have sex with her every night. She is also
'bad' because she, through her great guile, makes Odysseus forget about his
home and his beloved wife, Penelope. She even offers him immortality if he
stays with her forever. She only lets him go when she is force to by Zeus. This
type of behavior suggests that Kalypso does not love Odysseus because she
would not let him live even though he wanted to.
Kerke is another prime example of the deceitful woman. When
Odysseus's men wash up on the shore. She lures them into her home by signing
in an enchanting voice and gave them thrones to sit on and honey to eat. But as
soon as they turn their backs Kerke "adding her own vile pinch" (Page X, 260),
turns them all into pigs. The one man that stayed behind, Eurylokhos, says "I
saw cruel deceit" (X, 285) when he finds out that this evil she-witch has turned
perfectly good men into pigs. But Odysseus is much to clever to be tricked by
this goddess and he eats a plant that allows him to resist the poison of Kerke.
Once Kerke realizes that Odysseus has found her out she cowers under the