2) In book 1 of The Odyssey, Telemachus tells his mother: You should go back upstairs and take care of your work, Spinning and weaving, and have the maids do theirs.   Speaking is for men, for...

2) In book 1 of The Odyssey, Telemachus tells his mother:

You should go back upstairs and take care of your work,

Spinning and weaving, and have the maids do theirs.  

Speaking is for men, for all men, but for me

Especially, since I am master of this house. (1.376-9)

Is Telemachus correct that speaking and power are exclusively a man’s domain in The Odyssey? Is female power possible in The Odyssey? Back up your argument with specific quotations and examples from the text.

Expert Answers
Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Telemachus is having an emotional moment here in this passage, which explains why he dismisses his mother like this. Female power is observable in Book 1 of The Odyssey, and though minor characters like Calypso are described as powerful ("Calypso, / the bewitching nymph/ the lustrous goddess, held [Odysseus] back"), Athena presents as the most powerful female at this point in the epic poem.

Athena's power is observable in several circumstances. First of all, Athena is willing and able to argue with her father, Zeus, which shows a bravery and strength unique to her position as the daughter of Zeus: "Athena drove the matter home: / 'Father, son of Cronus, our high and mighty king, / surely he goes down to a death he earned in full!'". Secondly, Athena, in her determination to meet with Telemachus, changes her appearance into that of a man so well, that Telemachus doesn't even question the arrival of Athena-as-Mentes: "he glimpsed Athena now / and straight to the porch he went." This quote reflects the power of her determination as well as her skill in donning disguises, which has the power to convince. Thirdly, Athena has a powerful connection to the gods, which in turn, heightens her own potential to influence and to exert power of her own. She asserts to Telemachus, still in disguise: "Wait, / I'll make you a prophecy, one the immortal gods / have planted in my mind..."

So whether she is disguised as a man or standing as herself in front of her father, Athena's power is undeniable. Telemachus will soon learn that the power is certainly not exclusively the domain of men.