Summary of Epics of The Iliad and The Odyssey
Homer is credited for writing two major epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Both of the poems consist of 24 books of hexameter verse in an ancient Greek dialect. The Iliad is about the incident of the famous tenth war of the Trojan wars, concentrating on the great warrior known as Achilles. The Odyssey also deals with war about the life of Odysseus, King of Ithaca and his long ten years-long journeys home from war. The Odyssey and the Iliad are called epic poems, a term which is derived from the Greek words of poetry. Most of the epic poem after these two poems applied a certain style of writing based on the models, criteria, and standards set by Homer. Composing an epic work was considered by western literature as the highest achievement a writer could attain. The magnificent creative writing of homer has influenced so many writers and scholars. “It has influenced the literature of the entire world and continues to do so to a remarkable extent—both in the high culture and in popular culture” (Johnston para. 1). In both the epic poems written by Homer, the style of writing is elevated, even ceremonial and formulaic.
In the poem The Odyssey, Homer starts off the poem by invoking the muses. Invoking the muses was a convention in classical literature especially an epic, where the poet requests the muses to inspire him in telling his tale. Homer relies heavily on the use of symbolism, imagery, and allegory to describe in detail about the journey. His use of literary device justifies the fact that the author wants the reader to go deeper into the meaning of the poem. He accomplishes this by using symbolism throughout the poem. The most significant symbolism used in the poem is the great bow which symbolizes strength, Laertess Shroud which symbolizes female deceptions and the sea which symbolizes life. Homer’s creativity in the poem is shown in his unified sensibility, originality and the consistent use of themes, imagery, and symbols throughout the poem.
The writing style of The Iliad is clear and poetic in the sense that most of the descriptions of the words are very clear and direct which is written in his own distinctive language. In the Iliad, we can see homer’s distinctive style of writing. His distinctive style of writing is characterized by the repetition of lines, phrases, and even the passages. One of the main reasons behind this constant repetition is attributed to the fact that Homer composed his poem in oral style and these repetitions are crucial to the oral style of composition. In the poem, we can see the mastery of Homer’s epic similes. These similes are featured throughout the poem and it can be said that they are indeed the central themes in almost all the chapters and scenes. His similes are simple and deal with the natural world in a direct manner, “…Gasping out his life as he writhed along the ground / like an earthworm stretched out in death, blood pooling, / soaking the earth dark red…” (Homers Iliad and Odyssey Page). Apart from the similes, many elements hold constant throughout the poem which makes the poem “formulaic”.
From both the epic poems it can be seen that the hallmarks of the Homeric style are the epithet, which is a combination of a descriptive phrase and a noun. Homer often repeats his epithets and it is normally made up of a noun modified by compound adjectives which are usually not used by other writers. Examples for this are fleet-footed Achilles, wine-dark sea, etc. The style of his poem can be called “formulaic” in the sense that they rely heavily on the use of epithets as well as repeated verses. In both the poem, Homer established the practice of literary devices, rules, and standard which became a guideline for epic poetry written later.
Homer’s writing techniques are remarkable and many techniques can be learned from his use of words and styles. His writing technique can be used not only in poetry but in fiction writing as well. The use of a simple, yet powerful simile can be used in fiction writing to enhance the descriptions. His unified sensibility, originality and the consistent use of themes, imagery, and symbols throughout the poem are also useful techniques that a writer can employ in his/ her writing.
Homers Iliad and Odyssey Page. Oracle Think Quest. 1998. Web. 05 Dec.
Johnston, Ian. Lecture on the Odyssey. Malaspina University-College. 1996. Web. 05 Dec.