Grudges, Fear, and Misogyny in The Odyssey

I enjoyed Homer’s The Odyssey because of its commentary on topics that are still relevant today. The depictions of attitudes towards women and relationships between men and women are still applicable today. This is conveyed through both symbolism and spoken dialogue.

A prominent example of misogyny can be found on page 212, “…a newborn whelp’s cry, though she is huge and monstrous. God nor man could look on her in joy.” (pg. 212). The quotation describes two female beings, one a whirlpool, and one a six-headed, man-eating monster. Both of them are bent of harming Odysseus and his men. This symbolizes “female paranoia” by males. This chronic fear of women is deeply rooted within The Odyssey. This depiction is a primary example of this fear. Women, symbolized by a man-eating monster, are painted as manipulative and faithless beings. Further, not only are women portrayed as manipulative, but also used as pawns of both mortal men and gods. Poseidon, the god who Odysseus had angered, uses female entities as a tool for his spite towards Odysseus. This passage exists as an example of male gods asserting their power over female gods, furthering misogynistic aspects of the poem. Another prominent example of misogyny occurs in the shade of Agamemnon’s speech, “But that woman, plotting a thing so low, defiled herself and all her sex, all women yet to come, even those few who may be virtuous.” (pg. 199). This quotation of course refers to Klytemnestra’s betrayal and murder of her husband. Perhaps the most infamous example of misogyny in The Odyssey, Agamemnon openly discusses his fear, grudge, and distrust against women. Agamemnon makes broad generalizations against all women, based on the actions of Klytemnestra. For cultural context, many women were seen as property by their husbands in Ancient Greece. The feeling of distrust and betrayal stems from Agamemnon’s conformity to this belief. As a result, the notorious speech slanders women, not exclusively because of Klytemnestra’s actions, but because Agamemnon is insecure. According to social norms of the time, men were supposed to be dominant in their marriages. This cultural context, coupled with the faith Ancient Greek afterlife, in which you gain immortality through being remembered for your actions, Agamemnon will be forced to feel shame for eternity. This shame evolves into anger, which becomes misdirected, and thus manifests as resentment, fear, and anger towards women.

The primary reason for my liking of this epic poem is how many of the poem’s key components are still relevant and applicable in the modern world. Many of these same gender hierarchies still exist and thrive in modern society. The Odyssey shows that this hierarchy is like a tough, gritty weed that must be pulled from the root. The longevity of these beliefs and hierarchies is demonstrated in the poem, through both literary devices and dialogues. The Odyssey may be an example of outdated gender roles in literature, but it also gives us an insight into the roots and mediums of this harmful attitude. Moreover, as a result of the glimpse into the past the epic poem proves, we find a road map to which we can find solutions for these very same problems that still plague our society. Combatting outdated gender hierarchies requires effort and change-oriented mindsets, but is not only doable, but a necessary metamorphosis we must undertake to assure future generation do not repeat the same three-thousand-year-old mistakes.