Aesthetic Representations of Women in The Odyssey

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Homer's Reflection of Cultural Aesthetic in Addressing the Audience

Homer’s passage may reflect cultural aesthetic way of addressing the audience, which could derive pleasure from horror. Odysseus requested Telemachus to cut the head of twelve women slaves. However, the latter exposes them to a hateful form of death by hanging since they are accused of engaging in prostitution (Odssey 22.437).

Helplessness and Ruthlessness of Victims

Women in this kind of society have no voice and succumb to the ruthlessness of the persecutors. Brutality is not directed to women only since other character die painfully. For instance, Homer gives a description of how they slit Melanthios’ nose as well as ears in addition to tearing his genitals. After the mutilation, the genitals were fed to the dogs but the experience cannot be compared to the torture the women experienced. The helplessness of the victims is evident yet the killer does not sympathize with their agony.

The Aesthetics of Violence and Suppression of Women's Pain

Telemachus’s action is related to a different system that tolerates brutality to human beings. The act also leads the audience to judge the women as deserving the death by going against the laws of the society and engaging in intimacy with men. The aesthetics of violence seems to suppress the body in pain experienced by the slave women as it brings out the disinterested gaze. The rendition of massacres as well as torture remains as an aesthetic tool and prevent the audience from showing sympathy to the suffering individuals. Homer’s comparison of the hanged slaves to birds caught in a net reflects the helplessness of the women, who have flown into a net set up in a thicket, seeking a resting place" (Od 22.468). The description given for the deaths of the hanged women does not subject the audience to the pain.

The Inhumanity of Murder and its Treatment of Women

The death of women is not prolonged like that of Melanthios in which aesthetics implies deriving pleasure from the artistic descriptions even when the action causes a lot of pain. Odysseus shows a lot of fury in the young women as they engage in prostitution with their lovers. This angers him and the only punishment he can think of is ending their lives in the most cruel way. However, the way the murder is carried out depicts inhuman behavior and torture rather than a form of discipline. Penelope had ordered them to sleep with the suitors to enable her gather information by pretending to be in love. She argues them "you must pretend to be in love with these men, … they will confide in you and we’ll know their plans (Od 22:117). The 12 women engaged in prostitution since they were ordered to yet the queen did not defend them during execution. The society was cruel to defenseless people by ending their lives despite serving the house of the king with great loyalty.

Cultural Aesthetic Representations of Femininity

Cultural aesthetic representations of femininity take different forms such as in the case of the myth of Penelope and Odysseus in Odyssey 22. Thus, Penelope becomes a tool of patriarchal discourse for controlling and reprimanding other women. The female characters are insecure and cannot make own decisions or choose whether to die or live. The action of Telemachus is as a result of a system of injustice different from modern culture where women are respected and enjoy their rights as well as freedoms. He describes his decision as "I would not take away the lives of these creatures by any clean death” (Od 22:462). The punishment for the disloyalty is an abuse of women rights in the modern generation but during the Odysseus. It was a way of instilling discipline to the community by eliminating anybody who contaminated the highly respected culture. Violence is therefore part of society and is justified as a punishment for immoral behavior. Thus, Homer views women as strong creatures but with no self-defense. The twelve women manage to clear the bloody place by removing the dead bodies yet they are killed afterwards. Odysseus is glorified for his bravely nature but his actions of revenge display a sense of inhumanity. When the women are accused of being disloyal, Odysseus does not investigate the truth on why they slept with the suitors.

The Plight of Women and the Aestheticization of Violence

Dangerous women were to be kept away from the Greek households since they were a threat to the society. Thus, the maids are murdered outside to ensure that they do not pollute the kingly community. Hanging is one of the female’s ways of death in ancient Greek literature. However, to the modern audience, the action is brutal and unfair as it involves torture of human beings. Little attention is paid to critics of the hanging of women yet the passage highlights the plight of women during the era. Homer uses precise descriptive lines that exhibit the frigidity of anatomy in which the vivisection is employed to give evidence of the moments. For instance, the gasps of breath bring out the struggle as the culprits breathed their last. Thus, Telemachus hangs the women "so that they might die most pitiable way’ (Od 22: 462). Some analysis may condemn the murder while others praise it and claim that the maids deserved it for being unfair. However, the society is judgmental in many cases, and does not look into the cause of certain behaviors in human beings. The suitors wanted to marry Penelope yet she ordered the maids to sleep with them to save herself from downfall as she waited for her husband. Telemachus moral maturity is questionable in this case, thus there is need for close examination to establish the morality of the action. Violence against women is an issue even in the modern society regardless of their fidelity status.

Changing Perception and Treatment of Women in the Modern World

The modern generation has a different way of handling wrong doers especially women unlike in the past. Punishment by death is outdated and women have gained more respect in the society. The case of slaying of the 12 maids is brutal and in the modern day, such act would result to massive action as well as legal action on the offenders. Women writers in the 21st century focus on the role of women in the family and society rather than looking at them as the weaker characters. The era in which violence against women was taken as a disciplinary measure has passed and nowadays punishment for any crime does not favor an individual on gender basis. Killing of the 12 maids was not considered a big issue during the era of Odyssey since punishment by death was common in ancient Greek. However, in the modern world such action can lead to imprisonment for several years or life. Homer’s passage reflects the brutality against women due to cultural and societal norms of the time.

August 21, 2023

Art Literature

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