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In Homer's Odyssey, how does Odysseus treat women?I am writing a paper about the women...

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jordan0109 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 24, 2007 at 3:46 PM via web

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In Homer's Odyssey, how does Odysseus treat women?

I am writing a paper about the women in the Odyssey and how he treats them to get what he wants.

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted December 24, 2007 at 4:05 PM (Answer #2)

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I personally do not believe that Odysseus was some kind of a monster, woman-hating character who just used women to get what he wanted. His mission in life was to get home to his wife and son, Penelope and Telemachus, and he was forced into some pretty difficult (and probably some rather enjoyable) circumstances along the way to achieving that goal.

I think Odysseus gets a bad rep because of his dealings with Calypso, who fell madly in love with him while he was on her island. She kept him there for seven years and it wasn't until she was ordered to let him go that she did. She offered him immortality, which he declined because he truly wanted to get back to Penelope. Calypso was the one with the power in this case, and she used her wiles to try to get him to stay. Something to consider here is that despite the fact that she was disappointed in his determination to leave, she still provided the means for him to get off her island safely - not something a spurned goddess would normally do unless the guy was worthy of respect.

Women, both mortal and immortal, fell in love easily with Odysseus (he must have been quite handsome). I believe he still treated them as honorably as he could while still working to achieve his goal of going home.

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daveb | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 26, 2007 at 6:09 AM (Answer #3)

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That's an excellent answer to a complex question. As for how he treated women, I think Odysseus did so with respect and compassion; the fact that his wife is such a strong woman is a testimony to Odysseus' treatment of women.

I can also see writing off Calypso as she she is not entirely human to begin with, and as such, since she treats his crewmen the way she does, Odysseus treating her similarly (if you choose to believe he does) does not mean that he treats women negatively.

Lastly, using both the Odyssey and other texts, I don't remember reading about Odysseus participating in as much of the spoils of war as other Greek kings, meaning the servant girls and the like. I think, using the society of the time as a barometer, Odysseus was an excellent man in his treatment of women.

Dave Becker

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 26, 2007 at 2:44 PM (Answer #4)

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I would agree with the idea that Odysseus is not a woman-hater, but he is certainly a character that was indicative of the times.  As a citizen of Ancient Greecy, Odysseus would have considered women as property.  He may love Penelope, but she is his to command at will.  This belief in the inferiority of women is seen is many cases, but none so much as when he returns home.

First, Odysseus hides his true identity from Penelope.  He plays with her mind, causing her to think that he has seen her husband, but doesn't even reveal himself when they are alone.  He has his games to play.  When Eurycleia recgonizes him, he actually grabs her by the neck and threatens her to keep her from telling Penelope what she knows.  He waits until the suitors have been killed.  Then, when Penelope is cautious about accepting that it is truly him, Odysseus rails against her in anger.  She is quite the wife to put up with him.

Also, keep in mind Circe.  Odysseus had control over her and could have forced her to free his men.  Before he does, however, he goes to bed with her.  He makes use of her, enjoys her attention for a full year, then leaves.  Again, his treatment suggests that she is no more than property to him.

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted January 7, 2008 at 7:47 PM (Answer #5)

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A agree that Odysseus was not a woman hater, on the contrary I think he loves women. I do think that Odysseus has the mentality that what Penelope doesn't know won't hurt her. He is very concerned with her faithfulness, while never calling into question his own unfaithfulness. While Calypso did have power over him, he was not an unwilling prisoner in the least. When he had power over Circe, he continued to add to his list of indiscretions by bedding her as well. I think that Odysseus was a wonderful husband to Penelope, but that his faithfulness was severely lacking. Women were not of high importance in Ancient Greek culture and polygamy was a fair practice so Odysseus I'm sure saw very little if anything wrong with what he did, but had Penelope been unfaithful I'm certain she would have paid dearly perhaps with her life for such a treasonous act against a king.

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hsmluv | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 20, 2008 at 2:59 PM (Answer #6)

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Odysseus only wantd to get back home you know???? I mean like, he does think that women are above him and stuff, but he loves his wife and son, and he couldn't wait to get back to them. Odysseus may have mistreated his men sometimes, and sometimes he thinkls he's like, the best, but like, in the end it all worked out because he returned home safely with his wife and kids. It didn't really work out for all of his dead men though. ='(

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