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Heroism in “Odyssey” by Homer and “Inferno” by Dante

Thesis statement

This work aims to study such an aspect of human experience as heroism in Odyssey by Homer and Inferno by Dante Alighieri.

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Introduction

Authors may research and analyze one or several different topics in their literary works. One of the most common themes in the literature is heroism. This personality trait is just as essential both for a person’s private life and society’s existence. Homer and Dante Algieri have formulated unique interpretations of heroism in their literary works. These interpretations are determined by personal life experience, outlook on life, and the time’s context.

Heroism as aspect of human experience in literature

Heroism in Homer’s Odyssey

The heroic archetype is one of the most fundamental types of protagonists in world literature and various mythologies. The reader can often find the hero as a model of the characters’ behavior in ancient Greek literature. Homer’s Odyssey is one of the most well-known works belonging to the genre of classical ancient Greek literature. Odysseus here is a representative of the heroic archetype, but reinterpreted, as most often he uses trickster methods, such as pretending to be an older adult, to save his friends, family and defeat enemies (Homer 213). Nevertheless, he retains the high moral qualities inherent in typical heroes.

Heroism in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno

Dante Alighieri invites readers to look at how the extramundane world of Hell is portrayed in Inferno. The author emphasizes that the very heroism aspect of human experience is the starting point on this hellish journey. According to Alighieri et al., “here one must abandon every suspicion, every cowardice must die here” (55). The medieval Christian society of which the author and protagonist of the work was a part of was very religious. It means that the journey to Hell was considered then as an act of heroism and the right faith for the then readers.

How heroism is treated in Homer’s Odyssey

As already noted, Homer treats heroism differently. The author prefers to confront his protagonist with the forces of nature and gods than with human opponents. Odysseus’ encounters with mythical monsters such as the Sirens (Homer 194) or Kyklopes (Homer 144) end with either avoiding direct combat or the protagonist’s fleeing. It can be said that the heroism of Odysseus is expressed in steadfastness before multiple trials of fate and unbending will. It is worth mentioning that the protagonist’s cunning is also a form of heroism since such a personality trait allowed him to overcome various challenges.

How heroism is treated in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno

It can be assumed that for Dante Alighieri, heroism is the ability to find inner peace and determination in the face of the greatest fear. The author portrays himself as an ordinary civilian. It is unusual compared to Homer’s description of the protagonist, Odysseus, who was an ancient Greek ruler and war veteran. As a down-to-earth person, he is afraid that he is lost in the forest. According to Alighieri et al., “that wood was, so savage and harsh and strong that the thought of it renews my fear” (27). Perhaps such a grotesque but familiar fear for many people serves to strengthen the setting of the work.

Homer’s Odyssey specific literary devices

One of the most remarkable structural specific literary devices of the Odyssey is the ring composition. According to Jacobs, “in The Odyssey, Homer uses a storytelling device known as “ring composition” to circle backward and forward in time to give us more and more of Odysseus ’tale…” (53). Modern storytelling specialists call this literary technique a flashback. It is also important to note that “Homer uses this device on several levels of scale in the poem: the voyage itself is told out of order; and within each of its episodes, Homer casts back and forth in time” (Jacobs 53). The ring composition creates general intrigue and more tension for the ongoing plot events. It is also important to highlight such specific literary devices as foreshadowing and similes.

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Dante Alighieri’s Inferno specific literary devices

The erudite reader may notice many references to Judean, ancient Greek, and ancient Roman mythologies, poets, and politicians. Dante meets such characters Abraham and David (Alighieri et al. 73), Homer, and Lucan (Alighieri et al. 75). The very companion of the author and protagonist is Virgil, who was a roman poet. The author also provides an explanation of why they present in Purgatory. It is because they worshiped God in the wrong way (Alighieri et al. 73). Dante uses such a literary device as an allusion for a laconic but meaningful description of various characters’ appearance and nature. Besides allusion, the use of alliteration and metaphors is worth mentioning.

Homer, readers, and Odyssey meaning

It can be assumed that Homer created a new meaning for such aspects of human experience as heroism and reinterpreted the heroic archetype. Odysseus appears to readers as a heroic protagonist who is physically weaker than most of his opponents. He is also sensitive and vulnerable, especially when the Trojan War events are mentioned in his presence (Homer 136). These literary methods create a contrast between Odysseus and the typical image of warriors and war that “…has been institutionalized, romanticized and cosmeticized” (Schroth 38). Such an author’s literary redefining makes the protagonist more realistic, which brings readers and Odyssey closer together.

Dante Alighieri, readers, and Inferno meaning

Dante explores human society through a detailed description of the structure and hierarchy of Hell. The author analyzes the vices and sins to which people are subject and condemns them, describing the punishments and tortures that await the guilty after death. These descriptions are also a wicked ironic mockery of sinners (Alighieri et al. 108). Readers understand the negative aspects of sins themselves and their consequences. Consequently, they realize that heroism, which is a virtue, is the salvation path and can be achieved by every person.

Individual experience and interpretation of Odyssey

The deep contextual immersion created by Homer enables readers to compare a personal experience with the Odyssey story. Most of the protagonist’s challenges are abstract phenomena such as divine intervention or forces of nature. Even Charybdis is an allegory of such a natural phenomenon as a whirlpool (Homer 195). The personal experience of many people also consists of many events, some of which are abstract circumstances. As they read, readers associate their lives with Odysseus’s journey. It gives them the feeling that despite all the difficulties of life, the chance to achieve their final goal continues to exist.

Individual experience and interpretation of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno

One possible interpretation of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno is that social fears and vices can be overcome by the companionship with which heroism comes. The protagonist ceases to be afraid when he finds a companion and friend, Virgil (Alighieri et al. 31), and hears words of encouragement from Beatrice (Alighieri et al. 45). Close people and friends can become the foundation of heroism as a personality trait for any person. Real friends and loved ones will give advice and support a person throughout life journey despite all possible challenges.

Conclusion

This work explores how heroism is shown and reinterpreted in The Odyssey by Homer and Inferno by Dante Alighieri. This paper’s author identified heroism as an aspect of human experience in these two works, explored literary devices and the genesis of meaning and interpretation. It is worth noting that Homer was found to use ring composition, foreshadowing, and similes, while Dante Algieri’s work is characterized by the presence of references, allusion, alliteration, and metaphors. This essay is supported by two secondary sources from the GMC Library.

Works Cited

Alighieri, Dante, et al. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Inferno. Oxford University Press, 1996. ProQuest Ebook Central, Web.

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Homer. The Odyssey: A New Translation by Peter Green. University of Carolina Press, 2018. EBSCOhost, Web.

Jacobs, Thomas. “Following Homer on a great adventure.” America Press Inc., 2018, Web.

Schroth, Raymond A. “Different Kinds of Courage.” America Press Inc., 2017, Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Heroism in “Odyssey” by Homer and “Inferno” by Dante." April 3, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/heroism-in-odyssey-by-homer-and-inferno-by-dante/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Heroism in “Odyssey” by Homer and “Inferno” by Dante." April 3, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/heroism-in-odyssey-by-homer-and-inferno-by-dante/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Heroism in “Odyssey” by Homer and “Inferno” by Dante'. 3 April.

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