Womens Roles Essay

Submitted By zahn87
Words: 1778
Pages: 8

Zakery Ahn
Dr. Lusty
English 231
23 March 2014
Role of Women Throughout the context of various ancient literature, the role of women during the time frame is exhibited amongst the works of several authors. A far cry from the modern day outlook on women as equals, ancients viewed females as subordinates, if the men chose to view them as people at all. Many ancients viewed women as property, as opposed to actual human beings. “And she had been a purchase of Laertes when she was still a blossoming girl. He gave the price of twenty oxen for her, kept her as kindly in his house as his own wife” (Odyssey 236). “I stormed that place...plunder we took, and we enslaved the women to make division, equal shares to all” (Odyssey 320). This negative connotation towards the roles that women played are shown as we look into how women are portrayed in their home lives, intelligence, and marriage. In many texts, women are negatively portrayed in their home or social lives. Women were often seen only as a means in which to bear children, or to keep a household running. In Homers’ The Odyssey, Odysseus has still not returned home after setting out for the Trojan War. The physical war amounted ten years with an additional ten years in the return voyage home. In those twenty years, Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, has been faced with many suitors at her door, who are enjoying the wealth and feasts of Odysseus’ household. Penelope is faced with a huge dilemma on the island of Ithaca. Does she stay faithful to her husband, maintaining and serving a household that has no one to bear as its head, or does she give into her loneliness and reward one of her suitors. If she lay with another man, should Odysseus return, she would be labeled and publicly portrayed as an adulterer, living a lonely and shameful life. It is also clear throughout the text that if their son were old enough to take over the kingdom, he would. However, since Telemakhos is an adolescent, the society and customs of that time period show that they would sooner have a kingdom with no king, than to have a woman in charge. Fortunately, Odysseus returns to Ithaca, but before he reveals himself to his wife, he tests her loyalty to see if she has had a lapse of willpower and judgment, and fallen into bed with one of the suitors. Odysseus is checking to make sure his wife has not been given away, like much of his other property, to the suitors. This mentality is not unique to the king, but instead is shared amongst all men. Whilst feasting, one of Penelope’s suitors tells Telemakhos, “But keep your property, and rule your house, and let no man, against your will, make havoc of your possessions” (Odyssey 235). Even now from a stranger, Penelope is lassoed in with other property. In addition to the general reference of her being property, she is clearly not in control of her own fate. A man perhaps may not be directly making decisions for her, but will certainly be in control of the consequences for her actions. In addition to control over the fate of his wife, the ruler or head of the household also controlled the lives of the women who he employed or enslaved, as well as his own children. After the suitors were slayed by Odysseus, Telemakhos turns to the maids who laid with the suitors and says, “I would not give the clean death of a beast to trulls who made a mockery of my mother and of me too-you sluts, who lay with suitors” (506). It is hard to see how women of these ancient times were looked down upon. Throughout the texts you see them talk of women as if they were just an item to be purchased, yet when it comes to women of some nobility and wealth they are wooed and praised only to be tossed around again when purchased or wed officially. Although these women have no obligation bound by marriage to be loyal or faithful physically or emotionally to Telemakhos, he still punishes them for dishonoring him and his mother in their own home. Another way in which the