Essay on Loyalty in 'The Odyssey'

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Introduction

“The Thousand and One Night” is a text that involves a series of different stories that are centered on one major story. These stories have been narrated by a woman known as Shahrazad. She narrates the stories to her husband, the king. Shahrazad tells the story to the sultan every night ending it with a cliffhanger to make sure that the king is not bored and decides to kill her (Mahdi, 35). Various themes have been addressed by the stories which make them relevant to modern-day society. “The Odyssey” on the other hand, tells the tale of Odysseus as he wrote getting home from a Trojan War that had lasted for a decade. These two works of literature have women characters. They both have similarities in the process of solving problems. From the two literary works, this essay will focus on comparing and contrasting the way the themes of loyalty and perseverance have been presented. This paper will also largely focus on women’s social class as well as their privileges compared to each other. In “The Odyssey” the woman character who will be compared to the other text is Penelope, Odysseus’s wife. Shahrazad will be the woman character picked from “Thousand and One Nights”. In both texts, every woman's character finds herself in a difficult situation. The two women characters, Penelope and Shahrazad were two strong women who used their knowledge as well as their patience and perseverance in attaining major goals.

Penelope, Odysseus's wife, was a great character who attended to her city Ithaca while her husband was out fighting in the Trojan War against the Greek gods. In the absence of her husband, Penelope dealt with many suitors who aimed at trashing the city of Ithaca. To maintain peace in the absence of her husband, Penelope had to use clever methods to keep the suitors from taking over the land. For about two years, she kept those suitors from completely taking over. She stated that she would find someone to marry to replace Odysseus when she was done weaving cloth for Laertes who slept on his deathbed. Through her cleverness, she weaves and then unweaves the cloth. She repeated this until the suitors became impatient with the absence of her husband. When the plan seemed not to be working, she came up with another idea that was meant to delay the process of picking a new husband and king. As a plan, she said that the man who would be able to string a bow with ease shooting an arrow clean on all the twelve axes would be the man that she would marry. She knew that the task would not be easy for men to string the bow as well as shoot it through twelve axes. Her clever tricks and the fact that she stayed loyal to her husband gave Odysseus enough time to return home to the city and reclaim the throne by killing every suitor and those who betrayed him in his absence.

Shahrazad through her sex was able to use her intelligence in making sure that the king did not murder other women as well as herself. In contrast to this, Penelope was able to use her knowledge to keep her husband safe from enemies in the process of the king returning to his kingdom where he ruled (Caracciolo & Hassenstab).

Scheherazade is an example of the subordinate status of women in society. Her husband, a king, decided that every woman in their culture was unfaithful just because one wife was unfaithful to him. Hence the king decided to marry virgins, he spent one night with every one of them and ordered them to be killed the next day before they betrayed him by sleeping with other men from the community. This kind of living was something that was accepted in the traditional setting society, it indicated that women were nothing but objects that were owned by men and could be disposed of as pleased. Nonetheless, Scheherazade managed to keep herself alive by telling cliffhanger stories every night to her husband. The king wanted to know what could happen next and hence she did not kill her. Scheherazade did not have the right to make decisions about her own life. Nonetheless, Shahrazad was an educated woman and this was uncommon at that period. She made sure that she gained enough knowledge through learning how to read and get involved in science. At the same time, she was also able to write poems. During that time, it was very common for men to make demands that required women to be very submissive to their husbands (Byatt). Shahrazad refused to be submissive.

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Shahrazad was a hero who can be described as fearless. This is because she refused to submit to the male authority. Nonetheless, this does not surround the choice of stories to the king. Her main aim was to teach the king lessons. From her previous behavior, one may expect her to tell stories that are more related to the feminist theme. She, however, related her stories to women who do wrong by their husbands and use magic to trick men. She told of a story of a woman who threatened to awaken the genie if a king refused to have sex with her. Although her stories have been rendered foolish by some scholars, Shahrazad strongly rejected the idea that men posed a threat to her. If this is then considered as not the case, at least she had the power of soothing the anger of her king through words rather than sex appeal. Through the mirror of kings' interaction with women from the stories, there was a great lesson that was being taught. Although some women were deserving of punishment, some had every right to be treated with fearlessness. This character from “The Thousand and One Night” depicting the theme of loyalty as well as perseverance can similarly be compared to the hospitality theme from “The Odyssey.”

“The Odyssey” has depicted the theme of hospitality. At the same time, it shows a form of moral and ethical development of most of the characters from the text. A reader can learn about various characters from the universal themes that have been pictured. The most complicated character from the text, Odyssey embodied the universal theme from one degree to the other. Hospitality is s moral code of conduct that has been used to obtain the insecurity of the world of “The Odyssey.” Loyalty and perseverance are personal virtues which are major universal themes from the epic Loyalty Odyssey. Penelope has been used as a great example of what loyalty is because she was to wait for twenty years for the return of the king. Another good example from the text is Telemachus (Garvie et al., 89). He was able to stand by his father against suitors who wanted to take over the kingdom. At the same time, Eurycleia was another character who stayed loyal to Penelope in the absence of the King, her master. Other characters stayed loyal for example Eumaeus, the swineherd, Philoetius, and Cowherd. The issue is however complicated because the people who are expected to be loyal; women are regarded as property by Odysseus. Despite Penelope being a wife to the king she is considered as a property to the king. Possession is something that is used as justification for double standards on the issue of sexual fidelity. The wife of the king was fully expected to be faithful to her husband. On the other hand, the husband Odysseus was not bound to any kind of loyalty to his wife. Both Penelope, as well as Odysseus, embodied the theme of perseverance and loyalty. They were both survivors of the situations which they were in.

Because of the traditional stereotype directed towards women, the literature around the globe is male-dominated. When a female character is developed, the major assumption is that she will be a strong character in leading the challenge against patriarchal values. Authors of “The Odyssey” and “The Ten Thousand and One Night” used the female surrounding stories in developing themes that contrast the major role of women in not only the works of literature but also in society at large. A tale that has a woman as a major character is always depicted as one which is empowering. Nonetheless, this is not always the case as has been seen from both texts. Odysseus has been depicted as a legitimate hero because of his reputation as lead (Butler, 53). The reputation is only enough to base that argument. There is a great deal of effort into the power of entertaining stories, for example, the frame mechanism. The main theme of storytelling is a reminder of stories that should be anticipated because it is fun to hear. The devices that make a story very compelling include plot reversals, compelling characters, as well as relatable protagonists. The two texts have both employed all these. Most of those stories have survived because they are very compelling as seen from the two texts.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the two women character from both texts, The Odyssey” and “The Ten Thousand and One Night” used their cleverness as well as trickery to achieve their main objects and roles in society. For example, Penelope was able to create enough time for her husband to return by using the weaving trick as well as the stringing of Odysseus’s bow. On the other hand, Shahrayar used cleverness to develop creative stories to stop King Sharaya from succeeding in killing every woman from the entire kingdom. These two characters have been depicted as quick thinkers. They were both determined to succeed in the goals which they set for themselves. Even though The Thousand and One Nights and The Odyssey are many years old, they still hold up with modern literature. They keep the reader interested. The major themes which have been addressed are very modern. At the same time, it is important to note that A Thousand and One Night is a representation of the original culture from which it was authored. That original culture, which is very traditional, regarded women as lowly and they were assigned subordinate social status. Women have been presented as inferior to men and the identities which were assigned to them were a result of a patriarchal society. The closest we can be able to get to a philosophical tradition that anticipates modern feminist concepts is the character of Scheherazade. She applied her intelligence as well as undoubted wit to attract the attention of the king. Through Scheherazade, a lot of women who were being shamefully used and abused were saved.

Works Cited

    1. Butler, Samuel. The Odyssey of Homer. Walter J. Black, Incorporated, 1944.
    2. Byatt, Antonia Susan. The Arabian Nights: Tales from a thousand and one nights. Modern Library, 2009.
    3. Caracciolo, Peter, and Christine Hassenstab. Arabian Nights in English Literature: Studies in the Reception of The Thousand And One Nights Into. Springer, 1988.
    4. Garvie, Alfred Ernest, Philip Hardie, and Richard Hunter. Homer: Odyssey. Cambridge University Press, 1994.
    5. Mahdi, Muhsin S. The Thousand and One Night. Brill, 1995.
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