This interpretation of the Odyssey challenges conventional readings in a way that recaptures the strangeness in a text that has been colonized by interpretative strategies, interpretations that impose certain cultural and gendered stereotypes. My reading inverts and subverts some of these stereotypes, without claiming to reveal, or aiming to establish, true identities. Rather, my point is that identities are unstable and unpredictable; the main characters in the Odyssey can be understood best by analysing their characteristic style of dealing with these uncertainties. In this light, Odysseus appears as much less stable and much less 'in control' than in standard readings. His presumed, and famed, autonomy is shown to be largely a product of self-deception, deriving from an inability to confront himself. The women in the Odyssey, on the other hand, are stronger characters, both less helpless, and more helpful, than standard readings allow for. Calypso and Circe play a positive role in liberating and educating Odysseus. Penelope, for her part, turns out to be involved in a much more subtle and elusive form of self-fabrication than Odysseus. Rather than applying stereotypes of cunning 'or faithful', we should understand both Odysseus' and Penelope's actions as the product of their own idiosyncratic way of dealing with contingency, within the bounds set by cultural and natural circumstance.