Gender Roles In The Odyssey

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Essay question: Show how your chosen texts engage in debate over the distinction and hierarchy of genders. In the patriarchal setting of classical literature, strong and complex female characters are often hard to find. Some texts, however, are known as quite misogynistic to the general public but, with a better attention to details, can be read a proto-feminist. Taking the example of Homer’s Odyssey and Euripides’ Medea, I will attempt to demonstrate how these texts engage in debate over the distinction and hierarchy of genders. I will first observe how women are shown as morally superior, before describing their role as intellectual and cunning figures. Finally, I will analyse how men in both texts compare when it comes to these qualities.…show more content…
Penelope, for example, doesn’t hesitate to put herself in danger by lying to her suitors in order to stay faithful to Odysseus. During his journey, Odysseus meets numerous women who keep helping him carry on and getting him out of bad situations. The most present is Minerva, who assists not only Odysseus but also his son Telemachus when he decides to leave Ithaca. Other female figures like the water goddess Ino or Nausicaa only help him punctually but are essential to his survival. Calypso and Circe, on the other hand, are often seen as immoral and selfish figures. However, they do not only allow the man they love to leave them, but also do everything they can to help him on his journey back to Ithaca, ignoring their own broken heart. The first truly moral character we see in Medea is the nurse. While understanding Medea’s pain and deploring Jason’s actions, she senses before everyone else that the children are in dangers and tries to protect them from their own mother. She is more of a motherly figure than Medea herself, who choses honour over…show more content…
During the nurse’s introduction, she mentions that Medea knew of Jason’s dishonesty: ‘since first she knew that he was false’. Medea is extremely cunning and possesses a great power of persuasion, mostly through speech, like when she persuades Creon to let her have another day before banishing her, or when she convinces Jason that she is sorry and means no harm. This power of persuasion serves her plan by permitting her to get to her children without being stopped. Medea often shows to have the characteristics of a warrior, putting political concerns over her personal happiness. When she hesitates to kill her children, what pushes her to go through with it is the thought of her enemies seeing her as weak: ‘And yet, what is with me? Would I be a thing mocked at, and leave my enemies to sting,

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