Odysseus' Loyalty and the One Sided Contract of Marriage

Essay by dnkglyCollege, UndergraduateA, April 2014

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Danika Guiley

Professor Fisher

WR 100

18 February 2014

Odysseus' Loyalty and the One Sided Contract of Marriage

In Homer's Odyssey, the epic poem depicts the journey of a husband and father as he returns home after fighting in the Trojan War. Throughout the epic poem, many instances of fidelity and infidelity occur in war and in athletic challenges; however, the most significant and reoccurring instances of fidelity and infidelity occur inside marriage. While away from home, Odysseus takes the opportunity to lie with two women other than his wife, Penelope. Although adultery commonly disgusts people now, the Greek era views these happenings in a different light. Since in the Greek era marriage is interpreted as male ownership, a man cannot show infidelity to his wife. During the Greek era, loyalty is associated with remembering where one came from as well as having respect for a person. Odysseus cannot be disloyal to Penelope throughout the Odyssey because marriage is a contract binding a woman to a man but not a man to a woman.

Even though he commits acts that would suggest betrayal of loyalty, at a foundational level he remains emotionally loyal to Penelope because he never loses sight of home and holds her in high regards.

Prior to examining the instances of infidelity and fidelity in the poem, one must understand the marriage ideals displayed in the epic poem. There are glimpses of the marriage contract within the first books of the epic poem. In Book 2, Antinoos instructs Telemakhos to "dismiss [his] mother from the house, or make her marry the man her father names and she prefers" (Od. 2.121-122). Antinoos suggests this to Telemakhos because once his mother returns to her father, the house and land would belong to him. His mother, Penelope,