Women in Homer's Odyssey, Joyce's Ulysses and Walcott's Omeros

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Women in Homer's Odyssey, Joyce's Ulysses and Walcott's Omeros

This essay explores the role of women in Homer's Odyssey, James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) and Derrick Walcott's Omeros (1990), epics written in very different historical periods. Common to all three epics are women as the transforming figure in a man's life, both in the capacity of a harlot and as wife.

In Homer's Odyssey, Kirke, represents the catalyst who encourages Odysseus's transformation into a mature man. Homer uses Kirke, a godly nymph who displays divine powers, to portray the harlot. After sailing away from the Laistryones, Odysseus and his crew land on Aiaia. They disembark and scavenge the island for food, but instead find the nymph in
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"What champion , of what country, can you be?...Odysseus then you are, O great contender....We two shall mingle and make love upon our bed." (Homer 175). Odysseus demands that Kirke not work anymore enchantments on him or his crew. The goddess agrees and restores harmony to her palace and lures Odysseus into her bed. Kirke's subordination denotes the diminution of authority women experience when men no longer perceive them as seductresses but as wives instead. Kirke's nymphs bring Odysseus a tunic and cloak, a throw rug for his chair, a table full of gold, a goblet full of wine, a cauldron for a bath, and sweet oil for a massage. Homer describes these nurturing nymphs as catering to Odysseus's needs to support the argument that Odysseus's ten years of war has caused him to regress into a primordial condition that requires maternal nurture and nurture. "Now came a maid to tip a golden jug of water into a silver finger bowl, ....The larder mistress brought her tray of loaves with many savory slices, and she gave the best, to tempt me" (Homer 176). Water service in a shiny finger bowl resembles a holy ceremony or benediction, and the loaves of bread the body of Christ and the trilogy of mass. In the maid serving Odysseus both bread and water after his conquest of Kirke, Homer suggests the betrothal of two divine spirits co-joined in matrimony that support Odysseus
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