Societal Perception of Men and Women in Literature
The perceptions of the role of men and women in various societies are often portrayed differently depending on the culture. Most instances demonstrate them differently, but there are always some similarities in what men and women are perceived to be. In the previous reading handled in previous classes, different personalities are expressed differently depending on the culture in which the stories are based. Most of the readings are ancient, based on which men are perceived as warriors and defenders. At the same time, women are demonstrated to be powerless and mainly perform household duties as men were on battlefields. The paper will focus on two readings, ‘The Odyssey’ and ‘Morte d’Arthur,’ while using Penelope, Circe, Guinevere, and Morgan Le Fay as women characters from both stories to display how society judges them differently. Besides, the paper will categorically state how both men and women played different roles, even though it contradicts what modern society perceives of gender.
The Odyssey is a story with the main character being a man who had the dream of fighting for his society. The initial perception drawn from the story is how men are perceived as powerful compared to their women counterparts. Men are presented with heroic characteristics such as braveness and courage, which is not the same as women (Fortenbaugh, p 235, 2020). At the same time, men play the role of father figures who are mandated to head and take care of their families. As told in the story, society expects men to succeed in their mission, as demonstrated whereby Odyssey had to complete his mission before returning to his family. Therefore, the king mostly led the society and portrayed leadership character to the men as not equal to the women. The story is more about men based on a character in that men are given the limelight more than women. It is described by the narrator that men had more value in society, such as in times of war and in defending their communities. Penelope, who is the main character’s wife, is not given the appreciation or stated her role is not stated in giving support to the king’s leader. Despite the portrayal of strength for men, Penelope was able to take care of her family, especially their son Telemachus while the father was fulfilling his roles. Circe participates in helping the heroes of war, especially Odysseus when he helps them depart to a foreign land.
Morte d’Arthur’s story depicts a similar perception of women being weaker and with less power. In a more significant part of the story, women are not involved in making decisions affecting the community. The story narrates how men enjoy exciting adventures and seek glory while women are left out at home. It is the most highlighted theme, especially in terms of powers and leadership, as women have less say than men in society. However, there is a plot twist whereby women who are regarded not to have much power and are weak engage in demolishing kingdoms by seducing those in power. Morgan Le Fay is an example of a woman who participated in the fallout of kingdoms by allegedly having affairs with kings and the men who ruled the societies. Women are demonstrated to use evil means as much as sorcery and magic to ensure they bring down powerful men in the kingdoms. The narrator shows a character of fear among men who developed suspicious thoughts before seducing women in fear of getting trapped by women who felt that they did not deserve the powerful status. Morgan Le Fay is a sorcerer and uses different scenarios to bring down powerful men. Women were given lead roles in the community. For instance, Guinevere had the mandate of acting as a moral compass in society. The story shows that despite women not being given central spaces in societies, they still had leadership potential.
The described theme is one of the similar characteristics that can be identified as the similarity between men and women though it is a contradicting theme. The theme of love can also be seen from different perceptive between men and women. Women seem to have a different view of love, and they tend to love more than their counterparts, as seen in the story where women fought each other due to love puzzles (Gurevitch, p7, 2005). As quoted, “wit you well that ye be a prisoner and worse than ye ween; for my lad, my cousin Morgan Le Fay, keepeth you here for none other intent but to do her pleasure with you when it liketh her.”
Different societies have different perceptions of how they judge men and women in terms of their roles in society. As seen from the two stories, most societies defined men as more powerful than women in terms of their abilities. It is a different scenario in modern societies, which perceive women and men differently with equal opportunities. Morte d’Arthur describes women as weak figures in society with less power compared to men, who are regarded as heroes for defending their societies. The Odyssey story describes men with robust characteristics such as courage, with an example of the main character who participated in the war for his community.
Fortenbaugh, William W. “A Scholion on the Odyssey: Penelope and Eurycleia.” More than Homer Knew–Studies on Homer and His Ancient Commentators: In Honor of Franco Montanari (2020): 235.
Gurevitch, Danielle. “Analytical Psychology Approach to the Love-Hate Relationship between King Arthur and Morgan le Fay in Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur.” MIRATOR 1 (2005). P 1-17.