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Literature of the Western World Essay

The hallmarks of the epic hero represent different traits like possessing super-human or superior, being courageous and intellectual, and being responsible and strong leader. The epic hero undergoes phases of struggle in the journey of self-discovery against the constraints in the societal changes.

In the poem Odyssey, the main character Odyssey struggles on the way to self-discovery until he overcomes the obstacles and in his venture to fend off the suitors of his wife Penelope. Odyssey has all the qualities of an epic hero for he is brave, courageous, superior strength, and intelligence wins him back his wife (Wilkie & Hurt, 1998, p 19).

In the poem Iliad by Homer, the epic hero, Achilles although in some aspects is different epic hero; he has pride and arrogance that characterize the epic heroes (132). In the Aeneid by Virgil hero is more of improvised and imitated than it is the case of epic hero. The Aeneid is derivative for it borrows from Homer and contextualizes it in Roman and Virgilian. The individualistic view is portrayed in Iliad depicting the characters from his own judgment at his time but not according to the canonical standards (273).

In the epic of Gilgamesh, the main character Gilgamesh has all the qualities of an epic hero because he goes out of his way to serve his people and show respect to those who reciprocate his actions to them. Pride is his tragic flaw; Gilgamesh learns his lessons after losing his arrogance. He has great hero’s attributes because he is great leader, ready to sacrifice his life for his people and thus he fits in the Heroic Code (973).

The Sophocles play Oedipus Rex is the greatest tragedies the Elizabethan era has ever produced. The plot revolves around Oedipus and the prophesy of the oracle. In the play after prophesy is fulfilled, plague affects Thebes and King Oedipus is committed unravel the cause. When he consults the oracle, it is like a person going through a process of gradual self discovery where he is told of the murder of King Laius. Oblivious of his own destruction, Oedipus follows each hint to the discovery from which he promises to punish the culprit.

When Oedipus accuses Tiresias of blindness, it is Oedipus who is blind because he does not consider himself as the person who might have committed the murder crime. He lacks vision and he is like a dog trying to bite its tail. The image of blindness is effective in the play because those who are blind like Tiresias who is the prophet have vision and insights to matters that those with sight like Oedipus cannot see. Oedipus is ignorantly blind although he has eyes to see.

Though physically blind, Tiresias can ultimately see what Oedipus is ignorant of (741). In the epic poem Paradise Lost by Milton, the persona expresses the frustrations of the fact that he cannot see and therefore not able to sufficiently serve God. Wilkie and Hurt (1998) points out that just like play where Oedipus learns of Tiresias vision; the persona of the poem grasps the fact that he can use positively his physical impairness as part of God’s work (2099).

There are different forms of poems raging from odes, elegies, sonnets, and pastorals. Ode is a lyrical poem that is a moderate piece dealing with serious subject matter. Romanticism poets utilized odes to explore problems of general and personal matter. An example of ode poem is Ode to a Nightingale by Keats that praises the famous Nightingale for the servitude to others. An elegy is a classical poem which is made up of couplets where the poem is about lamentation for loss of something or a person.

The poem revolves around reflection of things that were shared in life and nostalgic remembrance of the vanished past. The main theme explored is death. An example of elegy; A memory of a sister by Thomas Hardy where the speaker nostalgically remembers his dead sister. Pastoral poem explore on leisure and some of the example is Milton’s Lycidas (842). Pastoral poem is viewed as sub-group of elegies for focus is on the subject of mourning and of love. The distinguishing factor is that they dwell on the idealized rather than focusing on the realistic aspects of life. Sonnet on the other hand is a poem that consists of fourteen lines and is of two kinds; the Petrarchan and the Elizabethan sonnets.

The Petrarchan sonnet is composed of two parts; one with eight lines and the other with six while the Elizabethan sonnet entails three segments of four lines and the concluding two lines called a couplet. A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway is an example of an Elizabethan sonnet (879).

In analyzing the nature and effect of the “framework tale” in the Canterbury Tales, The 1001 Nights, and the Decameron, the social life from the classical period is explored. The Canterbury Tales explores the pilgrims’ journey to gain forgiveness and blessings in travel that represents a section of the society in England then. In the epic journey, Chaucer explores the Elizabethan society infusing it with romantic scenes. Martyrs, miracles, and curses are ultimately explored in death where the journey is all about discovery among the travelers where societal virtues and morals which are imparted upon generations while vices are despised via the symbolic journey (1670).

In The 1001 Nights by Al-Jahshiyari is Arabic literary works that has had influence in European literary works. Just like the Canterbury Tales, The 1001 Nights explores on religious journey of the Arabs in their quest to find more about spiritual fulfillment. Its oriental function is important for it is equated to the Elizabethan society’s journey through the classical portrayal in self-discovery (1572).

The Decameron explores on the mediaeval era society where philosophical aspects emerge in the society and ultimately employs divine comedy. Literal aspects in society form part of the message explored while allegorical stories touch on Christianity. Like in classical literature where characters are literary involved in the journey of discovery, these plays have background on the journey via which the characters have to undertake learning important lessons in life (1878).

The worldview is literary depicted in the Divine Comedy by Dante where by the society of the Middle Ages was explored on the theological perspective and the Renaissance’s philosophical expanse. The comedy uses the humanistic approach via which the theme of self discovery; the journey in the society towards the affirmation and redemption of the characters in the light of God. The comedy is structured in an epic poem where Christ’s life of resurrecting from death after he had suffered.

Analyzing the Divine Comedy, it is paramount to not that it is not about a mythologized hero but reflection on contemporary person. Dante uses humble language in contextualizing the Christ’s message for the reader access. The poetic ingenuity is great because Dante employs his wit through the verse where meditation, dialogue, theological musing, and cosmology are explored carrying the reader through his or her reading. The comedy fits in the concept of contrapasso in the sense that it reflects on the speaker’s suffering in lack of the knowledge of redemption to eternal light. The suffering in Hell is brought out in the medieval belief and the society has to undergo the divine justice for eternal redemption of the sinners who form the society (1405).


Wilkie, B & Hurt, J. (1998). Literature of the Western World: The Ancient World through the Renaissance (5th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.

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