ENG 112 Sample Essays

Questions: The Path to Heaven

In his book, The Divine Comedy, Dante emphasizes the role that questions play in strengthening a Christian’s faith. Dante is pushed by his mentors to ask questions to better his understanding bringing him ultimately closer to God. Instead of preaching the message, his mentors waited for Dante’s curiosity to help grow him in the Lord. Dante’s curiosity lifted him closer to God in two ways.

The first way is that it lowers Dante to the point of receiving God. As established in the beginning of the book, Dante has a bit of a big head about his skill and intellect. Forcing him to ask a question lowers that pride because he must admit he does not know the answer. When Dante can finally bring himself to this humility, then he can finally be instructed by his mentors. After the man who believes he is a teacher takes the place of a student, then can he truly instruct.

The second is that questioning allows for correction. Many times throughout the text Dante has misconceptions about Christianity that his mentors had to correct in him to allow him to move forward on the journey. They did this by not only having Dante ask questions, but making sure he is asking the right questions. Just like St. John tells Dante that he must “sift with a finer sieve,” his mentors pushed him to ask the right questions. This kept his heart in the teachable place to become closer to God, allowing him to thirst for the correct wisdom and not the useless kind. Without the teaching Dante receives through this method of questions, Dante would not have learned the lesson needed to correct his path in life. Questions kept Dante in the mental position to be teachable and learn. This is a pivotal practice in Christianity, it leads not only to learning a world view, but also leads to the accepting of that world view.

Girl Power in the Odyssey

While some could argue that sheer “man power” is what got Odysseus home, it was really by “girl power” that he returned to Ithaca. Penelope provides him hope and Athena furnishes essential aid on his journey home. Without these two women, Odysseus would still be in the clutches of Calypso.

Penelope was Odysseus’ true love and he wanted to be with her more than anything. Even when in the presence of the beautiful goddess Calypso, he still wanted to be back with his wife. It says in book five, that Odysseus was “racked with grief” because he was trapped. Odysseus also had faith that Penelope wouldn’t marry one of the suitors. He knew that Penelope was a good, faithful wife and she would wait for him. If her character were any weaker, Odysseus would not have made it home, nor would there have been a home for him to return to.

Even though Odysseus had faith he would get home, it would not have been possible without Athena. Athena saved Odysseus several times throughout his journey. When Odysseus escapes from Calypso in book five, Athena battles Zeus so that Odysseus can escape. In books seven and eight, Athena disguises herself as a young child and leads Odysseus along on his journey. She leads him to people that will eventually help him get to Ithaca. Without Athena there to guide him, Odysseus would have never made it back.

The women in the Odyssey may seem marginal or passive, but Athena and Penelope are the protagonists whose actions bring Odysseus back to Ithaca. Without the girl power that they bring, Odysseus would have stayed where he was with Calypso.


Arrogance, the Real Enemy

The antagonist in the Odyssey is not Poseidon but is Odysseus’ vice of pride. It was his pride that led him to anger Poseidon, god of the sea. Had Odysseus acted more humbly, his journey home would not have been as terrible and long as it was.

There is a reasonable amount of evidence to suggest that Poseidon is the antagonist of the epic. Through much of the journey, Poseidon hinders Odysseus from returning back to his home in Ithaca. The god shipwrecks his boat that ends up killing all of Odysseus’ crew members. He is always angry at Odysseus and continually demands judgment upon Odysseus from Zeus. In book 13, when Poseidon finds Odysseus back in Ithaca, he is furious that he returned home and complains. From his negative attitude towards Odysseus, Poseidon seems like he is the antagonist of the story, but he is not.

Odysseus’ pride was what led to most of the unfortunate events he encountered on his journey back home. In book 9, Odysseus comes up with a plan to escape the Cyclops’ island by stabbing Polyphemus, Poseidon’s son, in the eye. The clever plan included getting Polyphemus drunk and telling him that his name was “Nobody.” All went according to plan until Odysseus’ arrogance got in the way. He could not leave the island without letting everyone know who had defeated and escaped from the great Polyphemus. This let everyone, including Poseidon, know who to get revenge on. If Odysseus had restrained his pride and had not shouted out his name, the significance of this event would not have been such a turning point in the story and he could have continued home unopposed.

The gods were correct to punish the mortals for their mistakes. As Zeus points out, instead of blaming the gods for their wrongs, mortals should recognize their own faults.