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Role of Women in Odyssey Comparative Essay

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Comparing Penelope and Calypso in Odyssey

Role of Women in Odyssey Comparative Essay

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In his epic poem Odyssey, Homer presents the conception of womankind and various dimensions of a relationship between women and goddesses. A number of female characters, including Calypso, Athena, Nausicaa, and Arete help Odysseus in his long and dramatic trip home. These characters either use their supernatural powers or social positions to help Odysseus escape various traps on his path and survive. Penelope, being an impersonation of a faithful wife, helps Odysseus in her own way: she is an absolute stimulus for an adventurous man to come back home. 

Role of Women in Odyssey thesis statement

The paper aims at comparing the two powerful female characters of the poem, Penelope and Calypso, by researching what the goddess and the woman have in common and how they are different.

Odyssey Character Analysis

Role of Women in Odyssey Comparative Essay

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  1. First, Odysseus’s wife Penelope represents a tragic character: she spends her days in the palace mourning her husband who has been gone from the kingdom for nearly twenty years.
  2. Second, Penelope is portrayed as being often emotional and impulsive, but also reliable, intelligent, and loyal to her husband. Meanwhile, the real tragedy of her character is that of a tragic choice: Penelope does not know whether her husband is alive and when if ever he will come home, but she makes a moral decision to stay in the palace and wait for Odysseus.
  3. Furthermore, the queen continues to guard the home nest while dealing with numerous cunning suitors. Thus, Homer shows the situation when a person undertakes moral commitment when the circumstances are not clear and the choice is not obvious. 

Character analysis Calypso vs Penelope    

A beautiful goddess Calypso differs from Penelope in character traits: being egocentric and authoritative, she captures Odysseus on her island hoping to get married to him. For long seven years, Calypso has been imprisoning Odysseus in spite of his vivid homesickness.

The nymph loves the man but her love is possessive contrary to Penelope’s unconditional love. 

Being persuaded to let Odysseus go, Calypso renews her offer to make him immortal if he will choose to stay with her. However, the answer is obvious for Odysseus: Calypso is extremely beautiful and alluring but Penelope is his wife and the connection with her is much stronger than the nymph’s charms. In fact, this is another example of Homer’s contrasting romance and sexual interest to fidelity and the union of husband and wife.

Meanwhile, there is a certain tragedy in the character of Calypso too: she saves Odysseus, falls in love with him and spends quite a long period of time hoping for marriage and then she has to let him go. Additionally, Calypso argues upon numerous affairs of Gods with women and their unfair interference in her personal life. 

Woman and home in Odyssey

Odyssey Character Analysis

Role of Women in Odyssey Comparative Essay

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A woman and her home is another subject to analyze. To some extent, in both cases each woman and her home represent one whole unit. Thus Penelope is strongly associated with the palace of Ithaca and demonstrates her home-loving instinct. Being alone without her husband, the queen manages to protect the palace and Ithaka.

Often, Penelope’s legitimacy as a ruler or the ability to keep the household are questioned by men, but she stays wise enough to rule for twenty long years and deserves Odysseus’s admiration.

For Penelope and Odysseus, the palace is their true home- it is the place they belong to and the place they cherish. 

Calypso captures Odysseus on her island Ogygia. The island is the nymph’s domain and looks like a paradise with its “soft meadows”, “beds of parsley”, all kinds of birds singing beautiful songs, and amazing caves. The island is as seductive as its hostess is. However, Odysseus still dreams of escaping from the isolated island. Both women act as powerful rulers on their lands, but their lands serve different purposes: Calypso’s island allures Odysseus and then becomes his prison, while Penelope’s palace is the only place Odysseus feels safe in and the only home he aims to come back to. 

Characters of Penelope and Calypso Analysis

Finally, in the characters of Penelope and Calypso, Homer presents two different conceptions of the role of a woman. Penelope demonstrates what a wife to her husband is: faithful, loving, understanding, reliable and patient. At the same time, she is powerful and prudent (as Odysseus often characterizes his wife). Penelope also uses her feminine charm in order to outwit the suitors and gain material benefits while waiting for her husband.

The trick with a winding sheet for Laertes demonstrates a kind of adventurousness. So, the concept of a wife presented by Homer is traditional yet rather progressive considering the time the poem was written.

Image of powerful female in Odyssey    

Calypso presents the concept of a powerful egocentric female who uses various methods in order to achieve her goal. Some critics state the image of Calypso represents a challenge to the traditional role of a woman of that time. In this relation, the image could be called feministic. However, her manipulative methods of capturing Odysseus on the island point more to her egoistic rather than feministic nature. 

Conclusion

Odyssey Character Analysis

Role of Women in Odyssey Comparative Essay

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To conclude, Homer’s Odyssey is an epic poem about male adventurous nature as well as the representation of some strong and complicated female characters who, in fact, have serious influence on the main hero. Thus both Penelope and Calypso love Odysseus and have their impact on him.

Being a seductive and possessive goddess, Calypso first satisfies some of Odysseus’s need for adventure and novelty and then makes him rethink his attitude towards home and stability.

Penelope, prudent and faithful, associates with home and true values for Odysseus. Finally, both female characters represent some tragedy: Penelope makes a difficult moral choice to stay faithful to her husband, and Calypso has to let her beloved go.