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The Odyssey passage analysis: Descent into Hades. The passage is found in Book XI from lines 10 60 and it acts as an introduction to the underworld and is also a crucial phase in the heros journey

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Introduction

The Odyssey passage analysis: Descent into Hades In his epic poem The Odyssey, Homer portrays his understanding of the afterlife through his description of Odysseus' descent into Hades's domain. The passage is found in Book XI from lines 10 - 60 and it acts as an introduction to the underworld and is also a crucial phase in the hero's journey - the threshold that lies on the border of the supernatural realm. Therefore, the passage acts as a representation of Odysseus' spiritual and physical journey into an unknown realm, corresponding to the phase of descent into a much darker and austere paranormal realm, as specified in the Monomyth cycle (hero's journey), to obtain guidance and knowledge about his upcoming journey The motif of the weapons and bloodshed descriptions throughout the passage indicates that Odysseus is gradually turns more cautious and contemplating as he descends down into Hades' lair. This change in Odysseus's signifies the importance of the upcoming event in his journey, hence establishing the setting of the descent into the netherworld. The first mention of weaponry is "while I unsheathed the sharp sword on my thigh and dug a hole,/two feet each way. I poured out libations/to all the dead"(24 - 26). Despite the fact that the aforementioned blade is not used in aggressive manner rather for digging a hole as sacrificial offerings to the numerous dead, it generates a very sombre and grave atmosphere, which again would cause Odysseus to be more careful of his actions. ...read more.

Middle

In contrast, when he compares the underworld to the secular realm, Odysseus exhibits sympathy and pathos towards the living dead when he says "Bright Helios never gazes down on them, /...ruinous night being rove over those wretches (19-20)". According to Odysseus the spirits in the underworld exist in a interminable, melancholy night, and this is the only aspect to their existence. Again Homer uses an epithet "Bright" when describing the sun, depicting it as an opulence accessible only to the mortal realm. The speaker's use of words such as "ruinous" and "wretches", both of which are cacophonous words, again portray the misery and desolation of Hades. This contrast contributes even more to the forbidding image of Hades when Homer uses it to illustrate the dominance of darkness over light. This is first seen, when Odysseus offers up the lamb as sacrifice "slashed the lamb and ewe, / letting their black blood stream into the wellpit" (41-42). Blood, is a powerful symbol of life and existence, and there is an oxymoron, when Homer contrasts it with the color black, which is an eternal symbol of death. This oxymoron signifies the domination of death over life in the underworld. Another occurrence where the prominence of darkness is exemplified is when Odysseus orders his men to "...make/ burnt offerings of flesh to the gods below-/ to mighty Hades and dread Persephone." ...read more.

Conclusion

He describes the phantoms as "...the blurred and breathless dead" (31). The alliteration formed by 'blurred and breathless' succeeds in accentuating the indistinct nature of the spirits in the underworld. The world 'breathless' creates a poignant image of the silence of life, implying that the afterlife is much like a perpetual purgatory. Through his fear, Odysseus views Hades with a notion of submissive acknowledgment and approbation, especially as he offers sacrifices and libation to the gods of the underworld, in return for their help. His greatest spiritual change is his realization that immortality will gain him the atrocity he just witnessed in the underworld: an ineffective existence. Thus by reading the excerpt, the reader encounter Odysseus' physical journey into Hades, as well as the emotional transformations that he experiences. As he descends into the underworld in his quest for knowledge and aid, Odysseus' physical and spiritual states are significantly altered. Additionally, the excerpt accurately portrays the Crossing of the Threshold phase in the Monomyth cycle in which the Hero descends from the real world to the unchartered lands of the afterlife. Homer uses various techniques such as mentions of weaponry and brutality, as well as the duality between light and dark particularly the dominance of darkness over light to portray Odysseus's descend to the paranormal realm. Moreover, his journey is accentuated between the parallel of life and death to the aging journey. This passage not only brings detailed insight to Odysseus's character development but also portrays his continuation as the heroic persona. ...read more.

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