Women in Homer’s “The Odyssey”

Category: Literature
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Throughout history, women have been represented in different lights that still affect them to this day. In Homer’s The Odyssey, his representation is both positive and negative. The Odyssey is a book about Odysseus who is the king of Ithaca who after battling in Troy for ten years alongside his crew travels to many islands, battles many monsters, and gets help from many Gods which is recounted throughout the story. Three female literary archetypes that are shown in The Odyssey are “the seducer”, “the matriarch”, and “the maiden”.

The first female literary archetype used in The Odyssey is “the seducer”. The seducer is said to care about men but loves control. She uses her body and looks and isn’t always but can be a powerful and attractive woman or can be vicious, backstabbing, or manipulative. In the story, this archetype is represented in the character Calypso because in the story she uses her beauty and enticement to force Odysseus to go to bed with her. Seducer archetypes are also known to sometimes be manipulative which she was during the time Odysseus spent on her island. When Odysseus arrives on her island, she does not allow him to leave her island until she is forced to by the Gods. “ There he is, lying in great misery in an island where dwells the nymph Calypso, who will not let him go (Homer 64)”. This quote from the story shows how the Gods were discussing how to free Odysseus. When Hermes went to Calypso’s island, she tried to argue as to why she had a right to keep Odysseus on her island. “ Ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always jealous, and hate seeing a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man, and live with him in open matrimony (Homer 67)”.

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This quote from the book explains how Calypso was being manipulative towards Hermes by saying the Gods were jealous of her and that she wasn’t in fact being vicious by not letting Odysseus return home. “ For he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he, that would have it so (Homer 68) ”. This quote also shows how Calypso is manipulative because she has forced Odysseus to sleep with her every night. This archetype is still a big influence in modern day culture because many men who for example sexually assault women say that it was the woman’s fault because she was wearing something revealing or that the lady was acting seductive towards them, which is normally not the case. Another way that “the seducer” archetype still affects women is that in some relationships or friendships, both girls and boys will expect another girl to be backstabbing or manipulative. This causes partners to sometimes constantly check their girlfriends phone or always want to know where they are at due to trust. Many girl friendships also have “girl codes” which have rules that they can’t date each other’s exes. Both of these examples may be based off “the seducer” archetype that “the seducer” is sometimes known to be backstabbing. This explains how Homer’s representation of “the seducer” archetype and many other representations of this archetype have still affected women in modern day culture.

The next female archetype represented in The Odyssey is “the matriarch”. “The matriarch” archetype is said to have being a wife as her number one priority and that her family is very important to her. Her biggest fear is normally losing either her husband, children, or their love. This archetype is represented in the book The Odyssey by the character Penelope who is the wife of Odysseus. Penelope is left distraught after the many years of Odysseus being away from her and their son. This causes many people in Ithaca to believe that Odysseus is dead so, many suitors come to Ithaca to battle for Penelope’s hand in marriage. Throughout all of this, Penelope still keeps the hope in her heart that Odysseus is still alive despite what other people tell her because her biggest fear is of her husband being dead. Penelope also shows matriarch characteristics when her son Telemachus leaves home to search for Odysseus. “And with them went my husband, Odysseus. If he were to come back to me and take care of my life then my reputation would be more great and splendid (Homer 255) ”.

This quote shows how even though Odysseus isn’t physically there and Penelope doesn’t know whether Odysseus is still alive, she still shows pride in her husband. “ Brought up together with me for first I lost a husband withe the heart of a lion and who among the Danaans surpassed in all virtues, and great, whose fame goes wide through Hellas and midmost Argos; and now again the stormwinds have caught away my beloved son, without trace, from the halls, and I never heard when he left me (Homer)”. This quote shows how just like matriarch characteristics, Penelope is afraid of losing both her husband, son, and being alone. “To this Penelope replied, Eurymachus, heaven robbed me of all my beauty, whether of face or figure, when the Argives set sail for Troy and my dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after my affairs, I should both be more respected and show a better presence to the world (255)”. This quote shows how no matter whether Odysseus was still alive, Penelope always keeps his best interest in mind because he’s her number priority.

The way that the female archetype, “ the matriarch” affects women in modern society is that in the negative light, women are sometimes expected to make their husbands their number one priority which may lead to abusive relationships if that isn’t followed. The positive part of this archetype is that women can be seen in a higher light due to wanting to protect their families, which is stated in this archetype. These examples show how Homer represents the matriarch archetype in the character Penelope which still affects women in modern day culture in both positive and negative lights.

The final female archetype represented in Homer’s The Odyssey is “ the maiden”. The maiden cares more about having fun and being carefree. This archetype sometimes has bad behavior and can’t really feel love for someone. In The Odyssey, these characteristics are shown in the witch Circe. “But she drugged it with wicked poisons to make them forget their homes, and when they had drunk she turned them into pigs by a stroke of her wand, and shut them up in her pigstys (Homer 135)”. This quote shows how when men from Odysseus’ crew went to get help from Circe, she turned them into pigs. This represents how “the maiden” archetype has bad behavior at times. “So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had completed her oath then I went to bed with her (Homer 138)”. This quote from the book shows how Circe wasn’t in love with Odysseus but just wanted to have fun, which is common with this archetype.

“We stayed with Circe for a whole twelvemonth feasting upon a untold quantity both of meat and wine. But when the year had passed in the waning of moons and the long days had come round, my men called me apart and said, Sir, it is time you began to think about going home, if so be you are to be spared to see your house and native country at all (Homer 141)”. This line from the story proves how Circes influence of being carefree and not caring about daily affairs had also rubbed off on Odysseus who was so carefree on Circe’s island that he didn’t realize they’d stayed there for a year. The way that “the maiden” archetype has affected women in modern day is that women may be viewed as if they don’t care about life and always want to party. The positive viewpoint of this archetype is that women can feel like they don’t have to always be stressed out in life, but they can also have time to enjoy life and be carefree. This explains how Homer’s story The Odyssey represents the female archetype “the maiden”, and how it affects women in modern day society.

Throughout history, women have been represented in both positive and negative lights that still affect them to this day due to many female literary archetypes. In Homer’s book The Odyssey, this is represented through the different female characters. They exhibit many characteristics from the archetypes seducer, matriarch, and maiden. These archetypes may have been passed down through the generations to still affect women in modern day culture. What can be learned from both The Odyssey and these different female archetypes is that continued positive and negative representations of women in books that may even date that far back have changed equality and certain rights for women and, have put them in certain situations that they otherwise would have not had to experience.

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Women in Homer's "The Odyssey". (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/women-in-homers-the-odyssey/