The Women from The Odyssey, The Wife of Bath, and Sir Gawain

1690 Words 7 Pages
The Women from The Odyssey, The Wife of Bath, and Sir Gawain

Until recently, the role of women in literature has seemed to reflect the way they were treated in society. Women were seen as secondary to men, and their sole purpose in life was to please a man’s every desire. This is not the case in three specific literary works. The Odyssey, The Wife of Bath, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight use the actions of its women characters to greatly enhance important thematic elements. The women in each of these works use feminine psyche to persuade men to do things that men of the time would not usually do. The use of women in these literary works is very contrary to the prevailing ideals of the female and her responsibilities at the
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Pile the big bed
With fleeces, rugs, and sheets of purest linen. (23.180-83)

After Odysseus becomes enraged when Penelope asks the maid to make his bed outside, she realizes that he knows the secret that only Odysseus and her share. She embraces him and praises his homecoming. Once again, Penelope is wise and patient in her decision-making. The suitors pursued her, overtook her home and aggressively pushed her to remarry as she was supposed to. If Penelope would have given in, The Odyssey would not have ended with Odysseus returning to a loyal home. Through cunning, independence and loyalty, Penelope is able to create a positive image as a woman. Chaucer’s Wife of Bath has similar independence and cunning, but she makes her name as a domineering lady that chooses who she wants, and when she wants them.

During the time period in which Chaucer wrote The Wife of Bath women were most commonly seen as prizes won by men. They were treated merely as objects of housework and sex. Although, women of Homer’s time period were not degraded as severely, both periods did not allow the due respect women should have received. The Wife of Bath is an exact antithesis of this view. The Wife of Bath, known as Alison, is the complete opposite of the typical woman of that time. In fact, she acts more like the husband in the marriage. She tells stories of how her first three husbands suffered greatly at her hands. Alison also goes on to describe how
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