The Theme of Justice in Homer's Odyssey and Dante's Inferno

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Composed in the 800s BCE, the Odyssey is one of the most stupendously awesome and best-known works of the ancient literature. It was written by Homer, a renowned poet of his time. The tale revolves around a man struggling to come from war back to his kingdom. Inferno is an Italian book of the 14th century. Just like Homer's Odyssey for the ancient times, Inferno is eloquent and important literal piece of the 14th century. This essay focuses on looking at the introduction, development, and expression of the themes of justice, lies, and deceit in Dante's Inferno and Homer's Odyssey.

In Inferno, Dante uses different symbols to create a correspondence of the sins of one's soul when they are still on Earth and the equivalent punishment that they receive when they go to Hell. The poet also employs symbolic power and imagery to bring out the theme of justice. For instance, he speaks of the gluttonous forced to eat excrements, the wrathful attack of one another, and not limited to the sullen choke on mud, to show the perfection of God's justice (Dante and Lockert 6). The inscription over Hell's gates in the third section states clearly that God was inspired to create Hell to achieve justice. In other words, the suitability of the specific punishment in Hell stands for the divine perfection violated by sin. The theme of justice in Inferno may attract diverse thoughts from the contemporary readers, with many people viewing God's punishment in the poem as harsh. However, in my view, throughout the poem, it is ostensible that the guiding principles of these are fair. The degree of punishment that sinners get corresponds to the magnitude of the sins they committed when they were living. Since God's punishments are all informed by the notion of balance, His justice is impersonal, mechanical, and rigidly objective (Dante and Lockert 9). Therefore, it would be justifiable to assert that Inferno recounts on the infinite wisdom of divine justice. That is, the punishment given to the sinners is directly proportional to their deeds.

Homer and Dante seem to take a similar perspective in how they outline the theme of justice in their works. However, the Odyssey takes a slightly different way to describe it. Based on the author's view, there could be a lot of fairness despite the non-existence of the courts of law (Homer 3). Homer believes that justice is apparently grounded in the divine sense of cause and effect. That is, the universe has a balance and order, where wrong deeds would only give a bad return. However, this justice differs from the one often manifested in the contemporary society, where the wrongdoers are imprisoned and punished until rehabilitated. Nevertheless, Homer believes that this is a society where if one hits a beggar with a footstool, then they get stabbed in the heart and they're next of kin receive similar punishments (Homer 5).  I agree with the Odyssey - a sinner gets what he or she deserves. Homer and Dante seem to concur in their theories of justice, with Dante believing in the theory of correspondence and Homer sticking to cause-and-effect as ways of punishing wrong actions and obtaining justice.

In the Odyssey, being honest is not the best policy. When the central character tells out his real address and name to Polyphemos, it is not received in a good faith because it is often deemed to be a bad policy. It is believed that all the good people in this society lie. Athene is a deceiver, who usually dresses herself up like an old man, Telemachos constantly sneaks away from his mum, and Penelope formulates a big lie about the magically shrinking shroud of Laertes (Homer 21). Most importantly, Odysseus, who is the main character, is referred to as the king of lies. Throughout the text, the bottom-line of all these lies is to reunite the first family of Ithaka. Thus, making deception acceptable to the gods in the Odyssey.

Similar to the Odyssey, the Inferno also brings out the theme of lies and deceit prominently. Whereas Dante refuses fraud to be contradicting the truth, his contempt for deception runs deeper than that (Dante and Lockert 13). Linguistic sin is the root of fraud and since the unique gift of a man is language, people will often be susceptible to fraud. Dante uses language symbolically to show unity within the society. That is, facilitating communication and uniting people. However, the corruption of language, which has been shown in the Inferno, threatens to destroy the cohesiveness of the society. Unlike the violence and incontinence, which affects the victims in this poem, fraud can deceive the entire community, including the Church and cities such as Florence.

Works Cited

Dante, Alighieri, and Lacy Lockert. The Inferno of Dante., 2016. Print

Homer. The Odyssey. London: CRW Pub, 2004. Print.

August 21, 2023


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