Odysseus has no real feelings for the female characters he encounters on his travels. How far do you agree with this view?

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“Odysseus has no real feelings for the female characters he encounters on his travels.” How far do you agree with this view?

Odysseus encounters many female characters on his prolonged journey back to Ithaca, including Nymphs and goddesses. Although his resistance temptation is often tested, his remaining nostos seems to surpass any feelings he has towards his female ‘obstacles’, and it is likely that he in fact has no real feelings towards the women he meets; simply using them for his own benefit to aid him on his voyage. In Ancient Greece, it was not considered adultery if a man slept with servants or foreigners. This means that in principle, Odysseus could have slept with every woman he met on his travels (though there would have still been consequences), but he only sleeps with the two goddesses, Circe and Calypso. I believe he does show some signs of feeling towards the women he meets, but it never compares to the love and longing he feels for his wife Penelope.

The first female character the audience hear of Odysseus encountering on his voyage back to Ithaca is the Nymph Calypso. She is in fact one of the most alluring of all the women he meets, as he does end up staying on her beautiful island where ‘even an immortal visitor must pause to gaze in wonder and delight’ for almost ten long years. However, the first we hear of Odysseus that he is ‘sitting disconsolate on the shore… tormenting himself with tears and sighs and heartache’ and he is shown as being almost imprisoned on this island - ‘he had to sleep with her in the vaulted cavern, cold lover, ardent lady’. This is far from the heroic and virile image that is built up of Odysseus previously, and despite the fact that he is on this extraordinary island with a beautiful Nymph, who even tempts him with immortality (‘stay and share this home with me, and take on immortality’), he longs to reach his home, saying it is his ‘never-failing wish’. In this case, although he may have been tempted to stay by Calypso’s looks, her island’s abundance and immortality, he longs for his home and his wife - ‘I too know well enough that my wise Penelope’s looks and stature are insignificant compared to yours… I long to reach my home’, showing how he does not have enough feelings for Calypso to force him to stay with her and give in to accepting her offers. When he does eventually leave the island, it is ‘with a happy heart’, and this too shows his wish to leave Calypso and her island far behind.

In addition, Odysseus suspects a trap when Calypso offers him help, showing how he does not trust the women he encounters. ‘Goddess, it is surely not my safety you are thinking about’ – he believes she is up to something, and asks  for her to give him her ‘solemn oath’  that she ‘will not plot some other mischief against’ him. Similarly, he says to the goddess Circe as we see later on - ‘Nothing, goddess, would induce me to come into your bed unless you can bring yourself to swear a solemn oath that you have no other mischief in store for me.’ His untrusting attitude towards the immortal women he encounters and suspicion of the ‘crafty way’ their minds work, also shows how his feelings towards them are limited; he is more adamant on not falling into a trap to prolong his journey home than trusting the goddess’ judgement carelessly, showing how his longing for home is greater than his submission to temptation.

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Likewise, when Goddess Ino, when daughter of Cadmus takes pity on him after Poseidon sends a storm that batters his raft and leaves him to almost drown in the waves, she gives him a veil to wrap around his waist and instructs him to throw it into the sea when he touches dry land. Odysseus at first does not trust her. He takes ‘counsel with his indomitable soul’ and says, ‘I am afraid this is one of the immortals setting a snare to catch me, with her advice to abandon my raft. No, I will not leave the raft for ...

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