How far are woman and goddesses responsible for the problems that Odysseus faces on his journey?
In Homer’s Odyssey women are responsible for many of the problems that Odysseus faced during his journey back to Ithaca. This essay will analyse how far women were responsible and also compare it to far other things caused problems for Odysseus. The first woman that I think caused Odysseus problems on his journey is Calypso. Calypso, her name meaning “the concealer” in Greek, using her beauty kept Odysseus captive on her island for seven years. “He is left to languish in misery in the island home of Calypso, who keeps him captured there.” (Page 63) Odysseus is upset because firstly on the island of Ogygia, Odysseus is powerless: he is no longer warrior and king but Calypso’s lover. The fact that she kept him captive is bad because had he remained on Ogygia, he would have no chance of ever getting any fame and glory. “His eyes were wet with weeping, as they always were” (Page 66). This quote also refers to this point because Odysseus wants more than anything to return home, but he can’t and there is nothing Odysseus can do about it.
The second reason that Calypso caused problems was the fact that she offered eternal life to Odysseus. “Yet had you any inkling of the full measure if misery you are bound to endure before you reach your native land, you would stay and share this home with me, and take on immortality.” (Page 68) This ironically, she is just offering him a form of death as he would be isolated from the rest of the world. It would also prevent him continuing on his journey. On the other hand though, firstly, if it hadn’t been for the Charybdis and the Gods, Odysseus wouldn’t be on Ogygia. “Nine days of drifting followed; but in the night of the tenth the gods washed me up on the island of Ogygia” (Page 168), conveys that the Gods caused Odysseus to be on Ogygia. Also the person who alerts the Gods of Odysseus current location and situation is Athene, who of course is also a woman. Not only that but while Odysseus was being held on Ogygia he was very well treated by Calypso, she fed him, bathed him and clothed him and she shows great signs of Xenia not just to Odysseus but to Hermes as well.
The second woman who was responsible for problems that Odysseus faced was Circe. Firstly she turned all but one of Odysseus’ men into pigs and delayed Odysseus’ progress. “Now they had pig’s heads and bristles and they grunted like pigs; but their minds were as human as they had been before,” (Page 131) this quote depicts Circe’s cruelness towards Odysseus’ men. Secondly Circe again stalls Odysseus from completing his journey back to Ithaca. “You are worn out and dispirited, always brooding on the hardships of your travels. Your sufferings have been so continuous that you have lost all pleasure in living.” (Page 136) This quote shows how Circe convinced Odysseus and his men to spend more time on the island. Thirdly Circe made Odysseus and his men take a different route, via the prophet Teiresias, rather than going straight back to Ithaca. “But Circe has marked out a very different route- to the Halls of Hades and the dreaded Persephone.” (Page 139) This makes the rest of Odysseus’ crew very upset.
“When I told them they were heart-broken. They sat down where they were and tore their hair out.” (Page 139) Circe was very useful on the other hand. Had they not resumed their journey via the prophet Teiresias in the Underworld they would be completely ignorant to the dangers of Scylla, Charybdis and the Sirens ahead. She was also useful to Odysseus as she bore his child. The last women who were responsible for problems on Odysseus’ journey were the Sirens. “For with their high clear song the Sirens bewitch him, as they sit there in a meadow piled high with the mouldering skeletons of men, whose withered skin still hangs upon their bones.” (Page 158) This quote conveys how savage the Sirens are and that if Odysseus and his men did cross the Sirens without knowing they would have had a nasty death.
“There is no homecoming for the man who draws near them unawares and hears the Sirens’ voices; no welcome from his wife, no little children brightening at their father’s return.” (Page 158) This quote depicts the fact that if Circe hadn’t told Odysseus and his men to go and seek Teiresias then they would never have found out about the Sirens and therefore suffered as a result. So to conclude I think that women were only responsible for some of the problems on Odysseus’ journey as although most of the women hold him up on his journey, (one of them for seven years) they not only show him xenia but they also give him good and sometimes life saving advice.