Feminist Symbolism in Homer's The Odyssey and Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities

Essay by thesinologistJunior High, 9th grade March 2005

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Since what seems like the beginning of human civilization, the role of the female has varied from society to society. This role is symbolically represented in The Odyssey by Homer and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, two of the most famous works of literature, and yet two of the most different. In each book, the author uses a rich variety of symbolism to express themes he finds necessary to enrich the story. In both books, feminine figures are used as symbolism to represent the role of the female in the society of the author.

The Greek poet, Homer, is famous for his tales of Achilles and Odysseus, two of the most well-known heroes in classic literature. However, his presentation of female figures is just as fascinating. Pallas Athene, daughter of Zeus, goddess of wisdom and war, hides little of her power. In the very beginning of the book, Athene argues with Zeus over what ought to be done about Odysseus.

She goes out of her way to help Odysseus, till the end of his tale: "As she spoke Pallas Athene breathed vigor into him, and he immediately poised his long spear with a prayer... and threw it" (Homer, 24.520-423). Here Athene gives strength to Laertes father of Odysseus, demonstrating her indomitable power. Immediately afterwards, her supremacy is shown again. "At Athene's cry the color drained from their cheeks" (Homer 24.532). In other words, her power is so great that her single cry can defeat an entire mob of Ithacan mortals. As the goddess of war and wisdom, Pallas Athene is clearly a very bold character. A subtler example is Circe, "a formidable goddess with a mortal woman's voice" (Homer, 10.137). Homer describes her power in plain words. "She had slipped past us with ease; when a...