Gender Masculinities and Femininities in the Odyssey Essay

Gender Masculinities and Femininities in the Odyssey Essay
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Masculinity is the term used to describe the traits portrayed by males and femininities, on the other hand, it is a term referring to the characters portrayed by females. There is a way men speak and think about women and vice versa. In history, men have been considered to be strong, courageous and aggressive and the women, on the other hand, are submissive, fragile and can pity or sympathize with people. These traits are still there in contemporary society where men are leaders in their families, and their wives ought to be submissive to their husbands. Homer, a Greek poet, presents an epic tale entitled ‘The Odyssey’ that portrays the position of men and women in ancient Greek. It reveals male and female characters such as Odysseus, Penelope, Telemachus and Calypso (Atwood, 2005).

As stated earlier, men are the leaders of any society despite some changes, which have revolutionized the old American society. Women have accepted this norm and thus remain faithful and submissive to their husbands. Penelope is loyal to her husband, Odysseus, who has been fighting for a long time in a foreign kingdom. She waits for her husband despite the pressure from the suitors in her hometown (Harvey & Weber, 2001). She cleverly tricks the suitors with her embroidery scheme so as to wait for her husband until he comes. After Odysseus returns, Penelope shows him lots of love, and she portrays how she had a good time with her husband (Braff, 2008). These characters reveal the behaviors of women towards their husbands in ancient Greek society.

On another hand, the tale shows that men usually need women because they are charming, and they receive sexual favors from them. Odysseus longs to return home to his wife due to these reasons. Novel analysts claim that he doesn’t have Penelope in his heart as the woman says in the tale. Odysseus is very courageous and brutal as he teaches men to live up according to his high standards of tenacity and loyalty. He is authoritative in war and expects the best from his men (Atwood, 2005).

Due to the social division among men and women in society, different behavioral patterns emerge such as the young men commanding the elderly women. In the tale, Telemachus, who is a son of Odysseus, tries to regain authority in the absence of his father. He asserts his manhood by ordering his mother, Penelope publicly in front of suitors that he is claiming his father’s throne. These masculine powers among the young men result from the mothers’ dependence on their husbands and sons in personal and military conquests (Harvey & Weber, 2001). The women are seen mourning their sons and husbands urging them to stay safe. As a result, young men gain power over women, which is evident even in modern society.

‘The Odyssey’ is a masculine power-based story as the fate of the woman is finally narrowed down at the end of the story events. Human and divine characters such as goddess Calypso and Odysseus portrays that men are more powerful than women. Calypso, a goddess, is very influential at the beginning of the poem because she seems to be reducing the masculine powers in Odysseus by retaining him in the war, far from his friends. However, the story changes when god Zeus, a divine man, orders Calypso to release Odysseus for him to return home (Braff, 2008). In the end, the story reveals women’s defeat, as a result of men’s masculine powers and coercive acts towards them.


Atwood, M. (2005). The Penelopiad: [the myth of Penelope and Odysseus]. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Braff, L. J. (2008). Animal Similes and Gender in the “Odyssey” and “Oresteia”.  London: ProQuest.

Harvey, J. H. & Weber A. L. (2001). Odyssey of the Heart: Close Relationships in the 21st Century. New York: Psychology Press.