Homers Odessy Essay

This essay has a total of 883 words and 4 pages.

Homers Odessy

The Odyssey is the product of a society in which men played the dominant role. In ancient
Greece, just as in the whole of the ancient world, and in America and Western Europe until
the last century, women occupied a subservient position. Society was organized and
directed by men, and all of the most important enterprises were arranged and implemented
by men. Women were valued, but they participated in the affairs of the world only when
they had the tacit or open approval and permission of the men who directed their lives.

The literature of this sort of masculine society, of which the Odyssey is an example,
aptly illustrates these social conventions. The focus of the Odessy centers on traditional
interests of men; warfare, hunting, the problems of the warrior and ruler, and so forth.
That which would concern women, such as domestic affairs, is not involved in this
literature, or is dealt with only casually. Keeping in mind this important attribute of
epic poetry, which is the direct result of its social and intellectual environment, one
cannot help noting the great difference between the Odyssey and all other epic poems. No
other literary work of this period, or of a similar cultural background, gives such a
prominent position to women. No reader of the Odyssey can help having vivid memories of
the poem's outstanding female characters. There are many women in the Odyssey and all of
them contribute in mean-ingful ways to the development of the action. Furthermore, they
are treated seriously and with respect by the poet, as if there were no difference between
his attitude toward them and his feelings toward the chieftains for whom his epic was
composed. Among the memorable women in the poem are Nausicaa, the innocent young maiden;
Arete, the wise and benevolent queen and mother; Circe and Calypso, the sultry and
mysterious temptresses; Penelope, the ideal of marital devotion and fidelity; Helen, the
respectable middle-class matron with a past; and others, like Eurycleia and Mel-antho, who
have much smaller roles, but equally well defined personalities. Finally, there is Athene,
the goddess, who more than any other of these women, has the intelligence, sophistication,
and independence that the modern world expects of a woman.

The influential feminine strain in the Odyssey also has important effects upon the whole
flavor of the poem. Many other early epics are characterized by coldness, morbidity, and
brutality, caused by the subjects with which they deal. The virtues, such as courage and
martial prowess, which are seen in the Iliad are impressive, but they are undistinguished
and limited, for they exist in a world of masculine competition and warfare. It is only in
the Odyssey, among early Greek works, that such familiar ideas as love, family loyalty,
and devotion, and other such important ethical attitudes, are both illustrated and
advocated. It is the presence of these unconscious moral lessons that makes the Odyssey so
unique in its genre and produces its humanitarian and optimistic outlook.

The nature of the events described in the Odyssey and the character of Odysseus
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