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Abandonment Of Women In Lit. Essay, Research Paper
In many works there are reflected common themes that enrich the tale and cause the reader to relate the theme to his own life. We often find ourselves more enthralled with stories that affect us in an emotional way. One topic that I have found recurring in the works that I have come across this semester is abandonment–specifically, the abandonment of women by their husbands or lovers. This abandonment can be physical or emotional.
As we have read in The Odyssey as told by Homer and The Aeneid, written by Virgil, husbands in literature are sometimes forced to abandon their wives because of circumstances beyond their control and inadvertently end up leaving their women for a good cause. These are both cases of ends justifying means. In other works, such as Euripides Medea and Christine de Pisan s Treasure of the City of Ladies, we are told just what might happen when a man leaves his love for another woman due to his own vanity. The work of modern art known as Ariadne, by Giorgio de Chirico, is a painting based on another Greek myth involving the abandonment of Ariadne, a figure in ancient mythology. Although the works differ in the ways that women handle abandonment by their husbands, it is interesting to see just how different various individuals behave in similar circumstances.
In The Odyssey, the story is told of Odysseus s return home after the Trojan War. Throughout that ten-year journey, he encounters many obstacles in his path. He discovers the lands of the Cyclops, the Laestrygonians, the Sirens, and even the Dead. However, classic hero that he is, Odysseus overcomes these dangers through his guile and courage to eventually return home to his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. For three years, Penelope had been warding off more than one hundred suitors by explaining to them that she would agree to see one of them once she was done with her weaving of a shroud. Every day she would weave the shroud, and every night she would undo the weaving to make sure that the suitors would stay kept at bay. Odysseus isn t in the same position to ward off females that desire him, however. During his journey he is forced to abandon his marital vows and sleep with Calypso and Circe in order to make it home.
Aeneas, the protagonist in Virgil s The Aeneid, is destined to found the Roman race in Italy, and this is the epic tale about his journey to do so. Aeneas meets Dido, a widow and the Queen of Carthage. Venus, the god of love, and Juno, the god of marriage as well as Aeneas wife, both have their own interests at stake, so they each manipulate Aeneas and those who come know him in their own way in order to out-do one another. Eventually, Dido falls in love with Aeneas and the two end up sleeping together in order to keep Aeneas from leaving Carthage. Jupiter s messenger Mercury tells Aeneas that his fate awaits him and that he must continue his journey to settle in Italy. Aeneas complies, and Dido, furious that he had abandoned her, has her sister set up a fire to burn his belongings. Instead of following through with the initial plan, she throws herself into the fire and perishes.
Another tale from ancient Greece that deals with the theme of abandonment is the tragedy Medea, written by Euripides. This is the story of a princess named Medea who happens to also be a sorceress; she fell in love with Jason after helping him obtain the Golden Fleece with her magic. Jason has since left her to pursue a life with the daughter of Creon, King of Corinth. Jason wants to improve his social status, and he knows that leaving Medea for the King s daughter will help him do just that. Medea is infuriated and eventually goes mad from this realization that he abandoned her for another woman, She can t believe this would happen, especially after the times they had been through. After all, she killed her own brother in order for them to escape Colchis together. Nevertheless Jason refuses her, and as an act of horrible vengeance, Medea slays their children.
Christine de Pisan s work is quite different from the others I ve read this semester and written about above. It serves as a handbook of sorts for medieval women to refer in order to conduct themselves as proper ladies regardless of their social class. However, Christine does wisely address the issue of men cheating on their wives, which is a form of emotional abandonment. She explicitly describes the need of a woman to remain demur and prudent, to stay kind and faithful to him, and to pray for him. Christine explains that she who speaks badly to or about her husband has nothing to gain. It leaves women more susceptible to having him leave his wife, and that would only cause other people to speak badly about her. Rather, she instructs women to always put up with whatever sorts of behavior her husband displays and to take refuge in God.
In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is a tremendous amount of modern art on display. One piece I found of particular interest is called Ariadne, painted in 1913 by a man named Giorgio de Chirico. This artist painted a simple picture of a sleeping statue of Ariadne, with a wall and a tower taking up the rest of the surface. This painting served as a symbol to the artist of his own childhood, and it plays the role of an icon, attracting the attention of most people who are familiar with this Greek story of abandonment. The tale of Theseus leaving Ariadne after she helped him find his way through the labyrinth that Daedelus had designed to contain the Minotaur is a relatively well-known one. What are not well-known are the circumstances surrounding just exactly why Theseus deserted Ariadne. It is generally accepted that Theseus abandoned his lover on the island of Naxos. However, some say that Theseus took Ariadne off his ship because she was seasick. Before he could get her back on the ship, a terrible storm carried the ship out to sea, and Theseus never saw Ariadne alive again.
The common bond between all of these works is that the male of the story is usually made out to be a virtuous character, despite his penchant for abandoning his wife or lover whenever it best suited him. The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and Ariadne all glorify their heroes as men with destinies that superseded any romantic relationships in which they were involved. Medea addresses the problem of abandonment with utter bloodlust, which makes her appear to be a savage even though she is the protagonist of the story. Christine de Pisan, on the other hand, insists that the best path is that of the least resistance; women must still maintain their respect for their husbands even if they are emotionally abandoned by them. It seems as if all of the works are meant to force the reader to come to his or her own conclusion on whether it was right or wrong for the various characters in each of the works to make the decisions they made. I feel that given the circumstances of the figures and the era in which they all existed, they didn t have the same choices women do today. Nowadays, there s no fear of a woman being abandoned. She has her own professional career, and the only one she answers to is herself. I think the most important virtues I came across that the various types of people in the works had include loyalty, love, and the mental fortitude to deal with abandonment and not let it destroy them. Penelope from The Odyssey had all of these qualities, and I feel that she was one of the most respectable female characters I had encountered in the material I studied during this course.
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