Women and Deception in Homer's Odyssey Essay

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Women and Deception in the Odyssey

As Agamemnon tells Odysseus, “Let it be a warning even to you. Indulge a woman never, and never tell her all you know. Some things a man may tell, some he should cover up” (Book XI 199). This is not news to Odysseus, who treats all women with caution ever since he was betrayed by his wife Helen, who acted in a way that defiled all womankind. Agamemnon did not come to this realization all by himself, however; his statement represents the common sentiment that existed throughout all ancient Greece. Even before Odysseus speaks with Agamemnon, he exhibits a similar attitude in his many encounters with women during his long journey home. Every major female character that Odysseus comes across
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Both of these transgressions are against the natural order. “Although the Gods in Greek times were much more human than in other cultures, it was not tolerated for them to behave with mortals in this way, as explained by Kalypso’s arguments with Hermes about why the two should have to separate” (Lefkowitz 23). Odysseus for his part is not without a lie of his own; although in this particular case it may be that it is more a self-delusion than an outward lie. Odysseus cries every morning on the shores of the island, longing for home. But he also goes back to bed with Kalypso every night, showing an apathetic nature that constitutes a rare weakness on the part of the King. Very seldom is he shown in such an unflattering light. This self-delusion is a part of his need to deceive. A Goddess is not as susceptible to a lie as a mortal woman, and so Odysseus deceives himself to compensate. Most of his other confrontations are not as subtle.

His encounter with Kirke, for instance, is a much cleaner deception, on the part of the adventurer and the Goddess. Kirke lures the men into her cave with promises of food and treasure, but then transforms them into animals. Odysseus’ men, famished from their days at sea, let down their guard and approach the cave. When they are trapped, Odysseus does not hesitate to come and rescue them. His answer to the Goddess is another deception, a similar tactic to that of all the various encounters that he has, both with women
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