Gender Role Expectations in “The Odyssey” by Homer Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jun 12th, 2021

The Odyssey by Homer represents many characters of female monsters and immortals, which significantly influence Odysseus’s journey. These characters include Calypso, Circe, Sirens, Scylla, and Charybdis among others, and their role in Odysseus’s life is critical to have an effect on his further course in the hero’s journey. The reason is that, in most cases depicted in the work, these female characters are even more powerful than male mortals, or they have power equal to male gods. Although female characters in The Odyssey can be viewed as evil creatures that are not determined by their gender, Homer would consider gender equality as a cultural monster because of associated threats and anxiety.

Women depicted by Homer in his work seem to be the source of danger and obstacles for men in the case when they have too much power. There are many situations in the work when Odysseus as a man cannot control his choice, course, crew, and even his will because of the females’ impact. Thus, when Homer depicts female characters, including monsters, as having power equal to that of males, it is possible to state that he considers gender equality as a cultural monster leading to destruction. The reason is that many behaviors of these female characters are masculine in their nature, and they need to be further discussed with reference to examples.

There are many illustrations of a kind of gender equality in The Odyssey, especially when discussing the behavior and actions of female immortals. For instance, Calypso and Circe try to seduce Odysseus, and in this case, they act like men when avoiding a submissive role in relationships (Homer 64-80). Sirens also play a similar role while attracting men for the purpose of seducing them (Homer 157-160). In this case, female Sirens even have more power than males because mortals cannot cope with the desire to succumb to the temptation. These examples demonstrate that immortal women in The Odyssey tend to act as men, and this behavior is almost always dangerous for males.

Scylla and Charybdis represent the other type of female monsters in the work who also have powers to control men. Thus, Scylla and Charybdis embody disgusting female immortal creatures that are also irresistible. They are not attractive, sensitive or helpful like other depicted female immortals in The Odyssey, but they seem to personify all the evil associated with women and give a reason not to trust females. The actions of these monsters are masculine as their goal is to do all possible to kill Odysseus and the members of his crew (Homer 158-167). As a result, the body of a female monster in The Odyssey can be viewed as a cultural concept associated with gender equality fearing the males of the period when Homer lived and wrote his story.

It is possible to state that the gender-related expectations regarding female immortals in The Odyssey are not supported in most cases depicted in the work. Instead, it seems that Homer refers to female monsters as the examples to demonstrate the destructive consequences of regarding women as strong human beings or individuals equal to men. From this perspective, it is possible to conclude that Homer would perceive the idea of gender equality depicted in a specific manner in his work as a kind of a cultural monster that needs to be avoided.

Work Cited

Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Anthony Verity, Oxford University Press, 2016.




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