Portraying Women in the Odyssey
In most historical writing, women appear submissive and weak. However in The Odyssey, depicted by Gareth Hinds, it shows women to be welcoming, kind and smart. As Odysseus is traveling to his home Ithaca, he has a lot of trouble along the way, without the help of women he would not have been able to get home. Women are portrayed positively in the The Odyssey shown by characters such as the Nausicaa, the Daughter of the Old Man of the Sea and Odysseus’s wife Penelope.
Odysseus is first showed help by Nausicaa, the daughter of King Alcinoos. First when Odysseus gets stranded on an island after running from Poseidon, he finds Nausicaa, who offers Odysseus hospitality on the island. She sias, …here on this island, you will not lack for hospitality (Hinds 75). Odysseus has had a lot of trouble and sorrow along his journey, and Nausicaa is one of the first people to offer Odysseus along his way. By offering him hospitality she is making the island of the Phaeacians a safe place for Odysseus. Also when she realizes that Odysseus has nothing, not even clean close, she tells her servents to wash Odysseus in the river and to give him clean clothing. Nausicaa sais, Let’s feed this man, bathe him in the river, and give him a clean, dry tunic and cloak to wear (Hinds 76). This shows that she is offering Odysseus even more than she needs to. All she had to do was take Odysseus to her parents dressed as he was and wait for their judgement. Instead, she gave Odysseus cloth, so he would look presentable and more likely for the kings approval.
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Another woman who helped men on their trips back home from Troy was the Old Man of the Seas daughter, Eidothea. The Red Hired King Menelaus was stuck on an island trapped by the gods. They were running out of resources and needed to get home. The King Menelaus was approached by Eidothea. She asked why Menelaus was stuck and when he explained to her why he was stuck, she said to him, Ah, then I can help you (Hinds 35). Eidothea did not ask for anything she just offered to help. Most of the gods, male and female alike, would ask for something in return for help of any kind. She also told them exactly what they needed to do to get off the island. She tells Menelaus a way to get off the island. She tells him, If you can snare him and hold him tight, he’ll tell you how to complete your voyage, and tell you what has passed in you homeland since you left (Hinds 35). She is telling Menelaus exactly what he should do in order to get the favor of the gods and get back to his home. She then tells Menelaus exactly what to in order to get back to his home.
The last woman to help Odysseus on his journey back home what his elderly servant Eurycleia. When Odysseus gets back home undercover and gets the favor of Penelope, he gets a foot bath from the elderly servant Eurycleia. Eurycleia recognizes Odysseus, but he does not want anyone to know who he actually is. The servant tells Odysseus you know me, my blood and bones are yours, I will never betray you (Hinds 195). A lot of the people Odysseus has met, male and female alike, have tried to trick or take advantage of him. The maid Eurycleia is being loyal to Odysseus even though he had not been home for over 20 years. While Odysseus was away, many suitors were at his house and a few of the maids were not loyal to Odysseus. Eurycleia offers her help once again. She says, When you have killed the suitors, I can tell you which of the maids are loyal and which should be killed (Hinds 195). Not only does Eurycleia keep Odysseus’s secret but she will also help Odysseus after he has gotten rid of the suitors. She has helped Odysseus more than almost anyone else just by being loyal.