Comparing The Odyssey with Dantes Inferno


While reading these two epic stories, it becomes apparent to anyone there are several differences as well as similarities in the two tales. The Odyssey and Dante’s Inferno explore various themes through the utilization of poetry tools such as metaphors (Upton & Upton, 2004). Although the difference between The Odyssey and Dante’s Inferno is extremely long, numerous contrasting norms mostly relate to culture, philosophies, and literary tools. However, the most conspicuous theme in the two poems is the premise of good versus the evil that runs intimately within the different accounts presented in the two works. Additionally, the themes that are explored in the two epics have a striking effect on contemporary society (Upton & Upton, 2004).


In The Odyssey, this theme is presented via the conflicts that occur among the three parties, which are the mortals, the gods and the demigods. Throughout his journey, Odysseus is gen help and challenged by the gods. The evil element in The Odyssey is revealed through the treatment Odysseus receives from Neptune, in the period that Neptune prevents Odysseus from leaving for his home after he slays King Cyclops. Similarly, Dante’s Inferno focuses on the struggles for and against the good and the evil although the context of Dante’s Inferno concentrates on the Christian hell and heaven (Upton & Upton, 2004). Dante is exiled from his homeland because of the political beliefs that he espouses and is forced to contend between good and evil (Upton & Upton, 2004). Readers can see that his heroism emanates from his human form as he confronts and fights against the same challenges that humanity encounters on the Earth. As he confronts these challenges in the nine rings of hell, Dante says, “Therefore look carefully; you’ll see such things/as would deprive my speech of all belief” (p. 1873). This courageous spirit is unlike that of Odysseus because the courage of Dante is not rooted in physical feats. Indeed, the courage of Dante is rooted in testing his own inner strength.

Dante’s Inferno takes readers through the stages of the circles of Hell, including the punishment associated with hell in order to present the evil element in the poem. In both poems, the gods assist humankind in developing the element of faith and realize their prospective dreams through guidance, protection, and proper advice (Upton & Upton, 2004). In Dante’s Inferno, the devil utilizes the evil power to convert the potential dreams into evil dreams due to the jealous nature of the devil over God’s good work.

These aspects are evident in various occasions where the good fights against the evil. For instance, the evil in Poseidon makes him have a grudge with Odysseus in which he revenges through a delayed release so that he could get home (Upton & Upton, 2004). Poseidon finally allows Calypso to capture Odysseus. However, the good nature portrayed by Athena through her actions enables her to plead with Zeus for support to appeal to Poseidon so he would release Odysseus (Weiss, 2012). However, despite the goodness portrayed by Odysseus, he still revenges against the suitors who had taken his spouse and property. The event contradicts the good due to the thirst that Odysseus has for revenge against the suitors.

In Dante’s Inferno, Dante good side is corrupted after the struggles against the evil. Dante takes the evil path or turn against the good as an outcome for sinning against God (Upton & Upton, 2004). The consequences of Dante’s lost path are roving alone within the dark forest. Even after Dante gets lost, the good follows him through Virgil who serves Dante as the custodian through hell. Virgil elucidates everything concerning Beatrice to Dante and finally Dante is delivered to heaven through assistance and guidance. The good is fought with assistance from the beast that blocked Dante’s path. Despite all the blocks set forth, Virgil assists Dante on strategies that he would utilize in his way from hell to heaven. Another significant similarity is that both men long to see the women they lived with in the past. The purpose behind Odysseus’ journey was to be rejoined with his wife Penelope (Homer, 1984). In the case of Dante, he was eager to find his wife, who he meets in The Divine Comedy (Dante, 1984). However, the most striking similarities in these epic is that both characters seek help from people who lived before them. In the case of Odysseus, he believes his mother can provide news concerning his wife: Still with her child indeed she is, poor heart” (Homer, 1984, p. 351). On the other hand, Dante is led to Virgil. This is a man that Dante had a great admiration. In hell, Dante was careful to get as much learning as possible from the sinners, but more so, he was keen to gain more information from Virgil. Virgil teaches Dante about sinners and resurrection. Dante writes, “remember now your science/which says that when a thing has more perfection, / so much greater is its pain or pleasure” (p. 1854).

In Homer’s The Odyssey, the good is encouraged through the assistance from the goddess who guides and helps Odysseus to possess perfect plans and witty ideas for overcoming the promoters of the evil power (Cronin & Harrison, 2008). Odysseus fight is taken up by the gods since he obtains the assistance from the goddess. However, in Dante’s Inferno, the fight, or struggle is humanly where Dante is offered the encouragement rather than the real assistance to pass into heaven (Dante, 1984). Nevertheless, the good still conquers the evil through the assistance from divine beings such as the goddess and Virgil.

Writers employ several conventions when passing their messages to the readers. The convention that Dante uses in the Inferno is contrary to what Homer employs in The Odyssey (Upton & Upton, 2004). In the case of Dante, the epic is presented in one long speech by the protagonist. In the case of The Odyssey, Odysseus uses words and weapons to confront the suitors who invaded his residence (Upton & Upton, 2004).


The good versus the evil is an evident element within the two epic poems. The theme runs throughout as the fight emerges between the evil and the good. However, Odysseus manages to beat the evil through direct assistance from the goddess while Dante manages to conquer the evil side through encouragement that drives him into the good side or heaven. The conflicts that emanate from the different parties involved in the epic works, finally oversees the good as the victorious element in relation to the evil. Although the two epic have differing themes, they are still relevant to the modern audiences. The odyssey is a story that explores heroism against the gods, and is written using implausible words that are an inspiration to modern scholars. Inferno was based on the confrontations between good and evil, a struggle that is very much relevant in modern times.

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