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THE CHANGING ROLES OF WOMEN IN LITERATURE The changing role of women in literature from the late 8th century B C to the 4th century A D is evident in that women become even more subservient in later works This is portrayed in the works The Odyssey by Homer and Sakuntala by Kalidasa Women are treated more like slaves in Sakuntala while they are seen more like equals in The Odyssey However in Sakuntala women are given more responsibilities suggesting that people of the time viewed women capable of doing more things and perhaps more intelligent instead of being seen as ornamental as in The Odyssey The Odyssey was written in a time when men played the dominant role In ancient Greece women occupied a subservient position Society was organized and directed by men and all of the most important positions in society were held by men Women were valued but they participated in the affairs of the world only when they had the permission or open approval of the men who directed their lives The literature of this time illustrates these social conventions No reader of The Odyssey can help having vivid memories of the poems outstanding female characters There are many women in The Odyssey and all of them contribute in meaningful ways to the development of the action In addition the poet treats them seriously and with respect as if there were no difference between his attitude toward them and his feelings toward the men Among the memorable women in the poem are included Nausica the innocent young girl Arete the wise queen and mother Kirke and Kalypso the mysterious temptresses Penelope the model of devotion and fidelity Helen the respectable middle-class matron and others like Eurykleia and Melantho who have much smaller roles but equally well defined personalities Finally there is Athena the goddess who more than any other of these women is intelligent sophisticated and independent just like
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