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The Women of Homer’s Odyssey

The Women of Homer’s Odyssey

Homer’s Odyssey, by, is typically seen as a male dominated poem: the hero is male and the majority of the characters are male. We follow the men on their attempt to return to Ithaca. However, even though women are not the main characters, they are omnipresent through much of the story. Women play a very important role in the movement of the story line: they all want to marry, help or hurt Odysseus. During the course of his journey, Odysseus meets three different women who want him to be their husband: Circe, Calypso, Nausicca, and finally one woman who is his true wife: Penelope. Each of these women has a profound effect on Odysseus journey home. Yet, even though these women are much more powerful than ordinary Greek women are they still carry some semblance of the “good female” in Greek society.

Circe, though not the first female we meet in Odyssey, is the first woman Odysseus meets on his journey home from the Trojan War. She is no ordinary woman! She is not kept separate from men outside of her oikos as proper women are supposed to be (Pomeroy 21). Good Greek women are to be chaperoned by a male member of their oikos whenever they are in the presence of strange men. “The visitor to the Greek house would meet only the male members of the family; when strangers were in the house t…

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…r husband and they all attempt to accomplish this in different ways. It is interesting to see that even though there are numerous men in the story the women seem to weld power over Odysseus’ journey: holding him hostage or letting him go according to the various women. The fact that all the women are depicted as slightly evil (save Penelope, of course) seems to give evidence to the fact that Greek men are wary of the power of unconfined, unchaperoned women.

Works Cited

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: 1996

Kebric, R.B. Greek People. 2nd ed. London: 1997.

Pomeroy, S.B. Families in Classical and Hellenistic Greece. New York: 1997.

Prejudice and Racism – No Racism in Heart of Darkness

No Racism in Heart of Darkness

Chinua Achebe challenges Joseph Conrad’s novella depicting the looting of Africa, Heart of Darkness (1902) in his essay “An Image of Africa” (1975). Achebe’s is an indignant yet solidly rooted argument that brings the perspective of a celebrated African writer who chips away at the almost universal acceptance of the work as “classic,” and proclaims that Conrad had written “a bloody racist book” (Achebe 319). In her introduction in the Signet 1997 edition, Joyce Carol Oates writes, “[Conrad’s] African natives are “dusty niggers,” cannibals.” Conrad […] painfully reveals himself in such passages, and numerous others, as an unquestioning heir of centuries of Caucasian bigotry” (Oates 10). The argument seems to lie within a larger question; is the main character Charlie Marlow racist, and is Marlow an extension of Conrad’s opinion?

Achebe says yes to both notions. He points to Marlow’s speech about the Thames and the Congo as revealing his view of “Africa as “the other world,” the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization,” and notes the description of the Africans as “limbs [and] rolling eyes,” or, in Conrad’s words, “ugly” (315). When they are not incomprehensible “savages” or “brutes,” the Africans are farcical: “[The fireman] was an improved specimen; he could fire up a vertical boiler. […] to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat” (109). Achebe discusses Conrad’s withholding the ability of speech from the majority of the African characters. The Africans are not humanized, as the whites are, having no dimension, no tone or color save an alien black. They are never personified; Conrad refers to them as “black shapes” or “mor…

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…ifferent standpoint, the story for the story’s sake, much like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries which said nothing about society overtly at all. Unlike Mr. Doyle, Conrad’s attempts to make social commentary on the pillaging of Africa immediately thrust him into the shoes of his character, and though he attempted to do good by shedding light on the matter, he made only a half-hearted attempt; not racism, merely a lack of strength of conviction.

Works Cited:

Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa,” from Chant of Saints: a gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art

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