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Good and Evil in Dante's Inferno and The Odyssey Essay


Good and Evil

Many dimensions, such as cultural context, religion, principles, experiences, time period, and way of life, can influence the premise of an individuals thoughts. An individual has many worldviews depending on their place of origin. The mind adjusts external information to fit the individuals paradigm. Therefore, cultural misinterpretation can occur in words, gestures, objects, and social context virtually anything you can think of has different meanings within two civilizations. This can present a great challenge to the all mankind. World literature combines with the idea that the diversity of literature and culture can be viewed as a common denominator within their cultural context. In the situation of Homer and Dante they were two well recognized and talented writers of the their time. Both writers analysis humanity within two separate paradigms, on the other hand they share some similarities. In my discussion I will take a voyage through time starting from Dantes Medieval Divine comedy The Inferno to Homers Greek Epic The Odyssey staged at the end of the Trojon war. During my voyage I will analysis Dante and Homers view of Good and Evil within the cultural contexts of their literatures. And classify Homers characters into the circles of Hell.

Dantes premise was influenced by the medieval context in Florence, Italy. In Florence the Roman Catholic Church and Pope were at a raise, and the rebirth of a long forgotten ancient civilization of the Greeks; during the medieval time the answer to everything started with God. The notion of God was that Gods breath was the foundation of our souls. Therefore God was believed to be within all of us. God symbolizes everything and anything that is not self-love or self-indulgent. Dantes Inferno was heavily influenced by the seven deadly sins (Cardinal sins). In the Inferno Dante takes mankind on a terrifying voyage through the depths of hell. During the voyage through the underworld Dante witness the nine circles of hell. Each layer holds the souls of those individuals that committed horrible sins against Gods will. Each sin is classified to be worst than the pervious circle.

Dante opens the Inferno on the evening of Good Friday in 1300. He is traveling through the dark eerie woods. Dante has realizes that he has strayed from the true way into the dark wood of error. He lifts his eyes and sees the first light of the sunrise. The sunrise symbolizes the divine illumination. He starts climbing up the rocky mountain reaching to the light when three beasts of worldliness the leopard of malice and fraud, the lion of violence and ambition, and the she-wolf of incontinences immediately block his way and drove him back to the darkness of error. Dante introduces the inferno with his realization that he has lost his way the true path meaning that he is not fulfilling his calling that was set by God. The dark woods symbolize the sinful life he is living on Earth. The light of the sunrise symbolizes reason, truth, righteousness, and goodness. The three beasts symbolize temptations that can deviate a person from fulfilling their calling, and the horrible sins that are going to be depicted within the circles of Hell. After Dante was driven back into the dark eerie woods he sees a human figure larking behind the trees. Soon the dark shadow reveals himself to be Virgil the great Roman poet. Beatrice (Dantes beloved) an angle in heaven sent Virgil to help Dante find his true calling that will lead him to God. But before he is able to climb the mountain he must take a voyage trough the depths of hell, so he can be able to understand and correct his sins. This is the point where Dante begins his voyage through hell and describes the nine deadly sins against God.

The voyage is a mentally, emotionally, and physically draining. The physical aspect of the voyage is to strengthen the pilgrims body for the approaching and hard rise on mount purgatory. The rational portion of the voyage is intended for the benefits of the human soul. The emotional end Dante has to find his way to a non-sinful life. Dante must first understand the foundation of his sins before he can hope to climb the mountain of salvation. Before he attempts to climb he must reach down to the God of the underworld (Lucifer) body that is suspended in a lake of ice along with all of his sins. In the Inferno Dante changes the translational imagery of a fiery Hell, instead he imprints the image that Lucifer is suspended in a lake of ice to symbolize that he is the ultimate sinner; he has committed every circle of sins, such as lust, guillotine, heresy, and wrath, ambition. Lucifer is never satisfied and contiues to strive to be supivior than God, as a result he no longer has a soul within him (Gods breath). Lucifer is the ultimate sinner.

Dante and Virgil find themselves in the second circle of hell. He notices the souls crying and full of pain. Dante decides to ask a woman about her story. The woman was named Francesca. She realizes that Dante is a living soul, so she decides to shares her sin with him. She reviles to him how love was the cause of her sin. She was bounded in marriage to an elderly and deformed man; as time went by she eventually fell in love with Paolo da Rimini, her elderly husbands younger brother. One day, she and Paolo were sating down reading an Arthurian legend about the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, they both began started to feel that the story related to their secret love. When the story reached to a romantic moment, they could not resist kissing each other. Francescas husband quickly discovered their betrayal and had them both killed. Now Paolo and Francesca are doomed to spend eternity in the Second Circle of Hell. Francesca and Paolo committed the sin of lust. Dante writes that the souls held in the second circle of Hell are those who were infatuated with the stimulation of the flesh in life, now have their nerves constantly stimulated by the storm. The third circle of hell held the souls of those individuals that committed the sin of greed. The sin of greed (Gluttonous), also involves with the obsession of bodily pleasures; those who excessively pursued pleasure in life now lay in area of disgusts.

From Dante's perspective, crimes of passion or yearning are the least hateful; therefore, he believes that they deserve the least amount of punishment in contrast to those who he considers to be more serious sins. The sin of greed (gluttonous) is the foundation to develop hoarders and wasters, along with the wrathful. These sins fell below the worthy pagans. They represent a lost of self-control, and their reasoning (soul) took a wrong turn. Each individual fall into their personal self indulgence. Dante believes that, those individuals that gave in to the pleasures against Gods will' deserve an less cruel painful punishment than those who fall into arousing or psychological despair. All of the sins represent a punishment equal to or resemble the sins that were committed on earth. For example, Francesca and Paolo passion and desire for each other, during there forbidden affair. There love is not considered to be true love, because while they didnt love each others soul, instead they were attracted to their physical features, Therefore not loving the soul is like not loving God at all. In Francesca and Paolo story they were sitting side by side while reading a novel about forbidden love. The story became enticing and tempting, as a result there curiously lead them to perform the things that were writing down. In the situation of Francesca and Paolo senesce two kinds of sins where committed. Dante places Francesca and Paolo in the upper circles of Hell because of their sin of lust is less evil, compared to Francesca s husband sin of committing the act of violence against others.

Next, Dante portrays the souls that wander within the walls of active sins. Those sinners committed acts of violence against others, themselves, God, or nature. The heretics are the souls whose sins are similar to animal instincts. They commit acts of violence without any thought process. They response in violent and harmful ways, such as in anger, frustration, hatred and selfishness; According to Dante he believes that heretics is less harmful to the sins that are motivated by thought and meditation.

As Dante and Virgil move along through the depths of Hell. They view the next circles of Hell. The souls that lark within the cracks are the sinners that committed acts of fraud. He sorts these sinners as seducers, panderers, fortunetellers, grafters, hypocrites, thieves, and counterfeiters or falsifiers, fraudulent advisers. These are the individuals that betrayed the confidence of others while on earth. They prey on other people only for gain and intentionally deceived them without any concern for their victims physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Dante's premise of Hell is that each soul is responsible for their own placement in the depths of Hell based on their willful actions on earth. They were not convicted by chance but rather by a universal code made by God and Lucifer. Dante judges each soul and assign them to the circle that best represents their hateful sin.

Dante believes that those individuals that live and sacrifice themselves for the love and well being of others will move on to the graces of God. Moving on to Homers epic the question asked is where would Dante place the actions of the mortals and Gods in the Odyssey?

tI will travel back to the late eighth and early seventh centuries B.C.E. Where Homer has finish writing both of his remarkable epics The Iliad and The Odyssey. Homer depicts the never-ending battle between Gods and man. During Homers cultural paradigm more than one God ruled their world, for example there was a God of intelligence and wisdom, God or war, God of lust, God the sea, and many more. Many mortals disliked the Greek Gods because of their amoral ways, while others worship them because they hope to gain something in return. In Homers cultural paradigm Greek Gods possess intensified emotions as well as human like traits, such as passion, lust, rage, envy, simony, wrath, falsifiers, seducers, thieves, violent, benefactors. They were known to be egotistic. They intentionally act for their own profit. The Greek Gods possessed powers and forces beyond the common man. They were able to alter their forms into anything they wanted, such as humans, nature and animals. The Gods were not good nor bad they were amoral meaning that they didnt any sense of right and wrong or feelings for others. Therefore they did as they please without any punishment or aftermath.

According to Dante the Gods would be classified to be the ultimate sinner. They would be suspended in the lake of ice, because they are never satisfied with what they have. They always want more than what they have. While those individuals that worship them have committed the sin of fraud. Since during Dantes medieval time the noting was that one worship one and only one God Dante would classify the Greek people and Homer in the circle of heresy, because they are worshiping false Gods.

Homer begins The Odyssey during the ten year period of the fall of the city of Troy. Homer creates a setting that is able to see different dimensions of the story. He opens the epic with a mans voyage home while fighting obstacles. Odysseus still has not returned to his kingdom in Ithaca. Homer illustrates Odysseus first obstacle was the beautiful goddess Calypsos she begins to have an obsession with Odysseus when he lands on the island of Ogygia. She has fallen in love him, and holds him prisoner for seven years, even through she knows that he will never love her, like he loves his wife Penelope refuses to let him leave and return to his beloved and estate. Another obsetle Odysseus was the beautiful witch goddess who turns Odysseuss crew into swine when he lands on her island. While his stay she offered Odysseus the life of luxury by her by her side for a whole year. In this situation Dante would sort Calypso and the witch goddess under lust the sin of self indulgences because they were only thinking about keeping Odysseus for them self.

Even through, Homer depicts throwing feast for a guest is a common part of hospitality in Greece. He believes that the over consumption of food is a form of surrendering to temptation. For example in book 9 Homer illustrates after the storm winds pushed Odysseus and his men for nine days out at sea until they reached the island of the Lotus- eaters. They the natives to the island gave Odysseus and his men fruit that belonged to lotus tree. The fruit caused the men to lose their desire to return home. For the rest of the time the men stayed on the island devoting the delicious fruit from the lotus. Another event in book 9 was after the men mange to escape the evil spell of the Lotus-eaters. The men found themselves on the land of the Cyclopes. After the men made a meal of wild goats that they captured on the island. They continued to wander the land, until they found a cave full of sheep and crates of milk and cheese. They wanted to grab the food and run away with it. Soon Polyphemus the son of Poseidon returns to his cave and see the men eating the food. Polyphemus offers the men his hospitality, but soon eats two of Odysseus men and imprisons the rest. Meanwhile these events were happening to Odysseus and his men. His estate in Itica was is being invaded by larges amount of rowdy suitors slaughtering and eating the entire estates livestock. Homer represents that excessive eating represents not having self-control. Dante would place the Odysseus and his men, suitors inners under the greed (gluttonous), the hoarders and wasters, along with the wrathful, along with fraud, because they tried to steal more food then what they needed. They were self- indigent.

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