The Motivation Of The Journey Themes

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25th May 2017 English Literature Reference this


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In literature the theme of a journey is a common one but the motivation for the journey changes considerably. The goal of each journey was directly influenced by the values of the specific time period and location in which the pieces were written. These pieces include The Odyssey by Homer, The Inferno by Dante, Candide by Voltaire, and A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle. Each of these works of literature have their own concept of a journey but are similar in that they all share a driving force to complete their own specific quests.

In The Odyssey by Homer we see two journeys. The main journey is Odysseus’s journey home, back to his civilization. We also see Telemachus journey to find his father’s whereabouts. In Odysseus’s journey we see many obstacles that get in his way including gods which was a big part of Greek culture. Greek gods are considered to be human-like because of their inability to be perfect and because of this the gods are not always well respected by the humans. One of the gods who tried to prevent him from completing his journey was Poseidon. Poseidon sought revenge on Odysseus because Odysseus had blinded the Cyclopes which were one of Poseidon’s sons. In return Poseidon shipwrecks Odysseus and he ends up on Phaeacia.

Odysseus will do what is necessary to get back to his polis. The ultimate goal for a Greek is to achieve fame and glory through his polis. “I would have had my rites and the Achaians given me glory. Now it is by a dismal death that I must be taken” (Homer, 306-312). If this fame and glory is not achieved they believed that life was a waste. The city in which he ruled was called Ithaca. The polis in which he ruled in Ithaca believed that Odysseus was dead because he had not returned home in such a long time. The only true believers were his wife Penelope and son Telemachus. Telemachus saw that the suitors were disloyal to his father Odysseus by eating all his food and trying to take his mother as a wife and because of this he went on his own journey to find someone who had visual evidence of his death. On this journey he found no such evidence of death but he was starting to lose hope of his father’s return. We see that both Odysseus and Telemachus believe that civilization is the motivating force for their journeys. In Telemachus case, he wants to bring back the truth to his polis about Odysseus. In Odysseus case, he wants to return to his polis for fame and glory which is the greatest achievement possible.

In The Inferno by Dante we see a completely different journey. Instead of a journey for fame and glory through your polis we see a journey through hell to prove there is one God. Dante was born in Florence, Italy in 1265 in the Medieval era where Christianity was the dominate religion in that location at the time. In Christianity there is the idea of heaven and hell. In Christianity when you die you are judged based on your life by God and you are either sent to heaven where the good people go or hell where the bad people go. In this book Dante is allowed by God to enter hell alive to write about what he sees and who he meets. During this journey he is accompanied by Virgil who is his guide through hell because hell is where he resides.

His journey is also stopped by obstacles, but since it was willed by God to make this journey no obstacle could stop him for long. Once the people in hell knew they were protected by God they would tell Dante anything he wanted to know. When Dante journey lead him to the wall of the city of Dis; he was stopped by demons that would not let him pass. The abyss of the rest of hell was behind this gate and he needed to get passed. An angel from heaven was sent to open the gate for Dante and Virgil. The demons could not reject anything from heaven because they feared heaven. “Through me the way into the suffering city, through me … the way to the eternal pain, through me the way that runs among the lost. Justice urged on my high artificer; my maker was divine authority, the highest wisdom, and the primal love. Before me nothing but eternal things abandon every hope, who enter here…”(Dante, 1-11). This journey was meant to show that there is one God that is very powerful even amongst the most evil and even Satan himself.

Dante on his journey saw symbolic retribution which is when the punishment fits the crime and this was used to show that the sins committed on earth is the same sin you will commit in hell for all eternity. Hell is separated into 9 different circles with 1 being the best circle and 9 being the worst circle in terms of the punishment. Depending on the sin the person committed; they would be sent to that corresponding circle. For example, if you are a priest and you commit a sin such as you trade the grace and favor of the church for money you would be sent to the 3rd bolge in the 8th circle and you would be known a simonist. Their punishment is a reverse baptism where they are hung upside down in holes and are baptized in fire not in water. This is also an example of symbolic retribution.

In Dante’s journey we see a difference in motivation between the Odyssey’s journeys in that, a strive for fame and glory is not seen and polis is not even mentioned. His journey was used to communicate a fear for one God and also show the consequences of the wrong doings on earth. According to Dante, the worst sins you commit on earth you will pay for in hell.

In the next piece of literature, Candide by Voltaire, we follow the main character Candide on a long journey for the girl that he loves Cunégonde. He is banished from his home for kissing Cunégonde who is of a higher social ranking then himself. Because of his banishment he embarks on a long journey of hardship. He remembers Dr. Pangloss teachings as a kid a uses his philosophy throughout his journey. Dr. Pangloss always would tell him that they live in the best world and everything in this world is for the best. After a couple of years with the army he escapes to Lisbon because he was ill-treated.

In Lisbon he finds his lost love Cunégonde with two men who want her. Candide kills the two men and he now escapes on a journey with Cunégonde. But this journey with Cunégonde did not last long because he was wanted for the killings of the two men. Candide had to flee and he told Cunégonde to stay in Buenos Aires until his return. Candide and his servant Cacambo come across the lost city of gold known as El Dorado. Here they find kids playing with an abundance of gold as if gold was meaningless to them. In El Dorado there was so much gold that they played with it instead of cherishing it. El Dorado represents the conclusion of a perfect journey but for Candide this wasn’t the case. This was not perfect because Cunégonde was not with him and he never forgot about his promise that he would come back for her. So he took a large quantity of gold and went back to look for her.

Since Candide cannot return because he is wanted; he instructs his servant Cacambo to go get Cunégonde and bring her to Venice Italy where they could reunite. Candide arrives to Venice late and he has to search for Cacambo who was nowhere to be found. Eventually he finds Cacambo and again they embark on another journey to Turkey because that is supposedly where Cunégonde now stays. Sure enough there long journey comes to an end when they meet in Turkey. Candide lost his love for Cunégonde because she became ugly and fat but he still married her because of her social status. They end up buying a small farm that they must tend to regularly. Candide journey was all for nothing.

In his journey he had the opportunity to stay in the perfect world of El Dorado where there was plenty of food an riches but instead he decided to pursue Cunégonde. Cunégonde was once the perfection in his life but by the end she became imperfect. His journey has put him through many obstacles but in the end he was happy with the farm although he must work for food and his wife is not what he wanted. “…for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunégonde: if you had not been put into the Inquisition: if you had not walked over America: if you had not stabbéd the Baron: if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado: you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts. All that is very well, answered Candide, but let us cultivate our garden.” (Voltaire, 30.29-31). In the end, his journey was to find the perfect place where Candide was satisfied with his life and he eventually did this at the end of his long journey for Cunégonde.

In the last piece of literature, A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle, two journeys also take place; the journey of why the crime was committed and the journey to find the criminal. One of the main characters is Sherlock Holmes who is a private detective not affiliated with the authorities helps people find the truth about a particular situation that is considered unsolvable. Sherlock Holmes uses the reality of the situation as well as common sense to solve the issues he is presented with.

The first journey of why the crime was committed starts off when John Ferrier and young Lucy are rescued by Brigham Young and the Mormons. The Mormons agreed to take them if they converted to the Mormon religion which meant they had to follow the Mormons rules. John Ferrier and young Lucy had to agree to this or they would die in the desert. As time went on they settled with the Mormons and followed their traditions of their religion but they were still Christian at heart.

According to Mormon law young Lucy who is John Ferrier’s adopted daughter must marry a Mormon boy but Lucy loved another boy named Jefferson Hope who is a hunter but is not Mormon. John Ferrier was forced to make a choice or flee away from the Mormon settlement. With the help of Lucy’s love Jefferson Hope they try to run away from the Mormons. They eventually get caught and John Ferrier gets murdered, Lucy gets seized, and Jefferson Hope was not there to witness this so he gets spared. Therefore, Jefferson Hope, seeking revenge, finds out the names and whereabouts of the Mormons who killed John and Lucy. He finds out that Drebber and Stangerson are the ones responsible for this so he goes on a journey hunting for them.

Jefferson Hope eventually finds both of them and kills them. Jefferson Hope killed Drebber by poison and Stangerson by stabbing him to death. It became a coincidence that Sherlock Holmes was put on this case to find the killer. Eventually with the cunningness of Sherlock Holmes, Jefferson Hope gets caught for his wrong doings and he confesses everything and why he killed them.

These journeys of killing for revenge and finding the killer worked hand in hand perfectly because both show a journey of truth. “I’ve done my work now, and I don’t care how soon I go, but I should like to leave some account of the business behind me. I don’t want to be remembered as a common cut-throat.” (Doyle, 77). We first begin with Sherlock Holmes doing his usual investigation and we as the reader wants the killer to be caught. After we see the killer’s journey unfold, we feel sympathetic towards the killer because we know what he has been through. After we see his journey we are lead back to the capturing of the killer and the reader is left to wonder if killing was the correct route to take.

To conclude, the motivation for journeys between these four pieces of literature change throughout the time periods. In The Odyssey by Homer the motivation for the journey during Greek times was to achieve fame and glory through their polis. This is proven by Odysseus overcoming obstacles throughout the epic. In The Inferno by Dante the motivation for his journey during the Medieval period was to show that there is one God that is very powerful and God should be feared because of symbolic retribution as well as loved because he makes the ultimate decision after death. In Candide by Voltaire the motivation of the journey in the Era of Enlightenment was to find the perfect place where you could be satisfied with life even if hard work and a long journey are involved. Lastly, in A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle the motivation of the journey for the Age of Empiricism is to find your own truth but there are always consequences in truth.

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