Masculinity In Homer's Odyssey

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Homer’s Odyssey is an epic tale set in the world of ancient Greece - a world dominated by men. Admirable men such as Odysseus, the story’s protagonist, are strong, cunning, and wise; they have control over their lives and the people within them. In The Odyssey, the quintessential man is characterized by his authority, including control of the women who surround him. As is suggested throughout the novel, the patriarchal world would fall into disarray without the force of intrinsic male authority. Odysseus’s struggles with his wife, his son’s search for manhood, and the wiles of cunning women like Clytemnestra and Calypso highlight the disordering powers of women. These disordering powers justify, to the men within this world, the necessity…show more content…
Telemachus’s transition to manhood, according to the story, must include his defeat of the suitors and restoration of control over his household. Telemachus’s coming of age, however, is incomplete because he lacks the most important masculine influence: a father. He is unable to fully become a man without Odysseus present; he cannot kill the suitors on his own, and feels abandoned and weak without his father. He says of Odysseus, “He’s vanished, gone, and left me pain and sorrow...All of the nobles who rule the islands...are courting my mother and ruining our house. She refuses to make a marriage she hates but can’t stop it either” (Homer 8). The reason Telemachus’s life is so out of control is because his only parental figure is his mother, Penelope. The text portrays Penelope, untempered by the presence of a husband, as the cause of disorder in the home of Odysseus; she refuses to choose a husband, but is too weak to stop the suitors’ advances. A father figure, Odysseus, is needed to create order in young Telemachus’s life, because only a man can impose such order. Throughout the text, many references are made to a similar situation in the house of Agamemnon. This man, a friend of Odysseus, was killed by his wife and her lover, later to be avenged by his son, Orestes, who killed this same lover. Fatherhood has a powerful effect here as it does with Telemachus; Athena explains, “Haven’t you heard how Orestes won glory throughout the world when he killed
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