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Analyzing Women Characters in The Odyssey and The Epic of Gilgamesh

No one can doubt that women can perform different roles in society. On the one hand, females can follow a simple strategy and become deceptive sex objects. One can state that individuals use their genders as a leading force to achieve the desired outcomes and manipulate people. On the other hand, some women decide to be more than that and to contribute to society. Such individuals are typically wise and helpful, which results in specific benefits for others. Numerous literary works represent such a distinction in women’s stances, and The Odyssey and The Epic of Gilgamesh are among them. In these works, the main characters are men, but women also play essential roles, meaning that females can be deceptive and sexualized as Ishtar and Calypso or wise and helpful as Utnapishtim’s wife and Minerva.

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To begin with, one should stipulate that Ishtar is an example of a deceptive and sexualized female character in The Epic of Gilgamesh. She is the goddess of love and war, but her role is negative in the poem. The character appears when he falls in love with Gilgamesh and asks him to become her husband (The Epic of Gilgamesh 12). However, the hero rejected this proposal and revealed the first argument why Ishtar was deceptive and sexualized. In particular, he stated that the goddess had many lovers, but all of them witnessed adverse consequences. For example, Ishtar “decreed wailing,” “decreed whip and spur and a thong,” “turned [her lover] into a wolf,” and others (The Epic of Gilgamesh 12-13). The second proof of being sexualized refers to the case that the goddess went to her father and requested “the Bull of Heaven to destroy Gilgamesh” (The Epic of Gilgamesh 13). This information denotes that the female character cannot accept criticism and relies on unfair methods to punish people who offended her.

However, it is impossible to state that all the female characters are the same in The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Utnapishtim’s wife proves the claim above. This woman plays a crucial role in Gilgamesh’s journey even though she does not take many actions in the poem. When the main character was going to sell away, Utnapishtim’s wife said to her husband: “Gilgamesh came here wearied out, he is worn out; what will you give him to carry him back to his own country?” (The Epic of Gilgamesh 27). This statement made Utnapishtim change his mind and tell Gilgamesh about a magic plant that could restore youth. Consequently, this information demonstrates that Utnapishtim’s wife was wise enough to understand that Gilgamesh had passed through many dangers to receive the gift, and that is why she helped the hero.

As for The Odyssey, this poem also has deceptive and sexualized female characters, and Calypso is among them. Ulysses stated: “Calypso kept me with her in her cave, and wanted me to marry her” (Homer Book IX). This statement denotes that the goddess kept the hero as a sex captive on her island. There is no doubt that this is an example of deceptive behavior because Calypso utilized her power to reach her sexual goals. She did not consider the feelings and desires of others, while her personal wishes were the leading driving force of her actions and decisions. That is why it is impossible to deny the claim that Calypso is a sexualized character.

Similar to The Epic of Gilgamesh, a wise and helpful woman is also present in The Odyssey. Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, war, and justice, is an example of such a character. She knows that Ulysses is held captive by Calypso and asks Zeus, her father, to help the hero. The goddess states that “it is for Ulysses that my heart bleeds when I think of his sufferings in that lonely sea-girt island” (Homer Book I). Minerva does not have any mercenary interests in freeing the hero, meaning that she only wants to help. Simultaneously, the goddess expresses wisdom when Ulysses states that “she makes me like a beggar” (Homer Book XVI). That trick was necessary to help the hero return to his home and kill his wife’s suitors. Consequently, Minerva is an example of a woman who contributes to society and takes care of those whom she loves.

In conclusion, it has been demonstrated that The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey have versatile female characters. Some of them are deceptive, sexualized, and selfish, while others are wise, helpful, and careful. Modern women can learn much information from the given essay. In particular, the examples of the four female characters demonstrate that women can choose one of the two strategies of action. On the one hand, it is possible to be sexual objects that create problems for others. On the other hand, wisdom and helpfulness are also a choice. It seems that the latter strategy is better since it results in benefits for women and the entire society. That is why females should invest in becoming persons of substance by contributing to their community.

Works Cited

Homer. The Odyssey. Gutenberg eBook, 1999. Gutenberg eBook, Web.

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The Epic of Gilgamesh. Translated by Nancy Sandars, Penguin Classics, 1960.

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