Women in The Odyssey

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Odysseus spends many years wandering the world while trying to return home in Homer’s The Odyssey. During his wanderings, Odysseus’ return home delayed by encounters with the goddesses Kirkê and Kalypso. Both goddesses make Odysseus enticing offers which he gracefully declines choosing instead to return to Ithaka and his wife, Penélopê. Neither Kirkê nor Kalypso can offer Odysseus the same happiness as Penélopê because neither can offer Odysseus as balanced a relationship as he shares with Penélopê. Unlike Penélopê, neither is a companion of equal intelligence and wit with whom Odysseus is able to engage in “harmonious converse” a characteristic of marriage that Odysseus stresses the importance of when speaking to the Phaiákian princess, Nausikaa. Furthermore, neither can represent to Odysseus what Penélopê does, his home and his identity. During Odysseus’ stay with Kirkê and with Kalypso, the relationship between him and either immortal could be described as anything but balanced. Having resisted Kirkê’s spells at her table, Odysseus gains the complete upper hand in the relationship and Kirkê becomes more of a slave than a companion, especially the type of companion that Odysseus values most. Before Odysseus can even finish asking her to, she is already walking out the door to change Odysseus’ men back from swine. Kalypso represents the opposite of this relationship. When staying on her isle, Odysseus is “compelled” by Kalypso’s spells to lie with her every night. He is unable to leave and completely subjected to Kalypso’s will, a role that the great leader, tactician, and hero Odysseus is not suited for. Kalypso and Kirkê represent opposite extremes of the balance of power in a relationship and leave Odysseus wanting more. Just as Kirkê and Kalypso cannot give Odysseus a balanced relationship neither immortal can compare to Penélopê in terms of wit and neither
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