Animal Imagery And The Classical Period Essay

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The use of animal imagery in Greek literature initially appears easy to understand as it is one of the simplest types of comparison found in poetry from European tradition. In fact, Western culture seems to encourage us to contrast the human world with that of the animal. This habit makes it easy to assume that no profound meaning can truly be drawn from such a clichéd analogy. I have not found this to be the case however when analysing the use of animal imagery to describe women in the Classical period. Animal imagery, particularly that relating to birds and horses, is used ingeniously across the period to dissect and often criticise the base nature of women. Women were seen as closer to the natural realm than men and something to be feared but is it an overgeneralization to suggest that all Greek authors utilise animal imagery when describing women to negative effect? In this essay I will attempt to illustrate Greek authors’ reasons for using animal imagery to describe women and whether Walcott is right to suggest attitudes towards women in literature and in the Greek world in general were ‘conditioned by man’s fear of women’s sexuality’ (1984: 45). One of the most distinctive qualities of Homeric epic is the extensive use of simile, drawn almost entirely from nature. His characters are likened to ‘almost every aspect of the natural world, from locusts to lightning and from bats to beans’ (Gariépy 1973: 89). Homer’s use of animal imagery, although most often expressed

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