Essay about The Odyssey - Gender Roles

893 Words Sep 29th, 1999 4 Pages
The Odyssey is the product of a society in which the dominant role was played by men. 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 those which men arranged and implemented. 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 Iliad and Odyssey are examples, aptly illustrates these social conventions. The themes of these works are subjects which are of interest to …show more content…
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 mas-culine 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 necessitated that many women had to be present in its verses. Beyond this, however, the poet had a rather free hand in choosing how to deal with them. The women of the Odyssey could have been treated as casually and cavalierly as Andromache and Helen were in the Iliad. Homer, however, made another choice. In a way, the Odyssey is not just the tale of the wanderings of Odysseus. The poet has made it, also, into a type of

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