The Major Themes in the Odyssey of Homer and Inferno of Dante
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The books of Odyssey and Inferno are both established to reveal culture and tradition of life and its values with reference to the time that each of the epics dates. In The Odyssey, poem of antic times, the main character Odysseus is struggling against multiple obstacles, as he is making his journey home after Trojan war being away for some twenty years. In Inferno, Dante as the main character is fighting to choose between good and evil, with reference to Christian hell and heaven, and it is the main theme in this story. In both books, the angels or gods occasionally help humankind to grow in faith and attain their potential dream by giving advice, guardian, and protection. However, devil in Inferno uses his evil power to change these dreams just because he is jealous of God’s work. Therefore, human’s life journey is about balancing the relationship between the sin and justice; and, as a result, only souls bind with grace are able to pull through the obstacles away from the devil.
Poseidon has owed Odysseus a grudge for disobeying him, and he takes a revenge by delaying his journey back home, by allowing Calypso capture him. During this period, Athena wants Odysseus to return home, and she begs her father Zeus for his support. Zeus appeals to Poseidon to forgive Odysseus, and with the help of Athena, Odysseus finally returns home and revenge upon suitors for trying to take possession of his wife and property. On the other hand, Dante turns away from the truth path and lost his way as consequences of his sin to God, wandering alone in a dark forest. But he finally finds Virgil who agrees to serve as his guardian through hell. Virgil explains to Dante about his friendship with Beatrice, a woman whom Dante admired, and she assists and guides him through heaven. Dante also tells Virgil about the beast that blocked his path to gate of heaven, and Virgil helps Dante by encouraging him on how to get to heaven through the gate of hell.
In Odyssey, Athena, one of the goddess, aids and guides Odysseus to have the perfect plan and cunning ideas on how to overcome enemies. One of the themes in the epic is the rage of Achilles, the strongest hero in the Greek army. However, Odysseus focuses on mind rather than muscle strength, and as a result, wins over Achilles.
“But you, Achilles,
there’s not a man in the world more blest than you—
there never has been, never will be one” (Homer 333).
Odysseus also has extraordinary strength, which he has demonstrated by stringing the bow. These cunning ideas explain how prominent leaders of the past envied his success, and his power of mind helps him overcome Polyphemus, Achilles, and others.
The act of disguise and storytelling helps Odysseus get close to his people, and he finally regains his position as their king. However, Odysseus seems acutely conscious about trusting people. He uses storytelling many times that portray his past to send a message to his people in order to know the degree of their faithfulness to him. Gods always assume alternative ways to help people they love. As a result, Athena appears to earth disguised to be a young girl to Odysseus’s son and others, and she uses her power to change the appearance of others, like in turning the entire Odysseus’s crew into pigs. In fact, Athena helps Odysseus change his look many times and be quick and witty, as well as calculate all his disguises. He suffered difficulties in trusting people due to what happen to his friend who returned home from Trojan War and got killed by his wife, as a result of fornication with another man during his absence from home.
In Inferno, the main character is Dante. Dante defines a correlation between a sin that a soul’s commits on earth and the respective punishment in hell. The plot reflects the idea about justice as a balance of relationship between God and humankind. Dante explains that God created hell for justice in order to punish sinners, and the degree of punishment equates the overall scope of sins. Dante, like most of the humans, suffers an inner fight between the good and evil. His courage reveals itself as the hero goes through the nine rings of hell. However, Dante’s courage is tested by the level of his inner strength, rather than physical features, contrary to Odysseus. Virgil, the deceased poet, assists Dante in his journey through hell, which is full of despair, pain, suffering and no hope for escape. They pass into the Ante-inferno before the river Acheron where they hear the voice of hell which states “through me you enter into the city of woes, through me you enter into eternal pain, through me you enter the population of loss ..... …. abandon all hope, you who enter here” (Dante 1272).
At the time, when Dante created Inferno, the main religion in the world was Christianity, since it won its way over the polytheistic beliefs of the past, which were considered as a sin against God. Inferno reflects this idea by making a remark that prominent figures from the past, such as the poet Virgil or the hero Odysseus, were in hell, since they did not live by Christian believes.
Although there are many other differences, besides the religious, the two epic stories have some similar themes. For examples, heroes from each of the stories are longing for a woman that they loved in the past. The goal of the journey of Odysseus was to rejoin with his wife, Penelopa. Dante, in his turn, was longing to see the woman he loved, who died and who guided him in his journey through heaven, in the story. Another similar theme was that each of the man enjoyed the assistance, since God shows his love to both Dante and Odysseus by sending guardian like Athena to assist Odysseus and Virgil to do the same to Dante during their life’s journey.
In The Odyssey, the main theme is a struggle against many gods, whereas Inferno provides an insight to the human fighting between good and evil. This fight continues under present conditions for every person. However, the love of God is worth sacrifice since it sets one to be free.