Sample Argumentative Essay On The Epic Of The Omeros

Type of paper: Argumentative Essay

Topic: Literature, Poetry, History, Dante, War, Athens, Greece, Greek

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2023/02/22


In the last half of the 20th Century, poets as well as classicists have had productions of an enormous amount of distinguished English poems as well as translations of the old. Although the study of Greek and Homeric texts no longer has a hold in the modern school curriculum, there is an evident connection with the decline in popularity. It has led to various efforts in a bid to maintain and protect the stories from dying. Some of these traditions are made very easy to those who know little about the Greek world, and some audiences have been critical about how “hopelessly un-Homeric they are” (Henriksen 11).
Today, an epic read means that the reader identifies themselves with historical events and extravaganzas of epic poetry. That means that they grapple with unknown poetic conventions that are strange to them as well as complicated with historical background. Some people have lost the meaning to epic genres and most still don’t understand the essential components that entail narrative genres. It is not very easy to identify a grand style, and most people will only use the presence of the great Ancient wars and war heroes to define it. I believe that Omeros is not an epic. That is because most epics are a representation of the traditional great wars and war heroes, but Omeros has little if any of those. Walcott himself admits that when writing the poem, he wasn’t thinking of such homers but on other such as, the seven seas. Most people place high expectations to reads of the epic genre, some of these expectations that Omeros does not conform to and neither to the classical European epic poetry.


The Omeros dwells majorly on the problems of belonging somewhere. The situations that most of us find themselves. Trying to belong to one homogenous group and finding real comfort in that. Walcott talks about his veins being poisoned with the blood of the ruthless Europeans and also the African origin (Walcott 18). He finds the two origins both appalling and attractive at the same time that he cannot take a stand. He discusses little the great wars of the ancient times that distinguish his work from the regular epics of all time. The poet addresses the pressures of Euro-American traditionalists on one side and the other, a bid in which he attempts to maintain his Afro-Caribbean roots (Walcott 15). He tries to balance both sides and attempts to feel a belonging even if just to one of his origins.
He discusses with deep connection the struggles of a man that finds himself torn between two worlds and the attempts he makes to feel even if a bit of belonging to just one of the worlds. He makes imaginary images in his head. In these imaginations, he travels to these worlds where he hasn’t been before. He goes to the Caribbean in his head and tries to experience the kind of life it would have been if he had only had the chance to belong there. He clearly shows that he prefers the polished English language and lifestyle of the Europeans and their traditions as forgotten as they may be. To him, it is not much about heroism or the ancestral great wars of history that defines his poem but the struggles he faces as an individual man who finds himself with connections to two very parallel worlds.
However, one might argue that the Omeros is an extended version of the Homer’s Odyssey and the roots to Western literature. Comparisons of various epic genres give light to the very characteristics depicted in the Omeros. There are usually more than one voices that elaborate whether a narrative is epic or not. The poem is epic in that it displays some elements like a certain kind of hero, some nature of his exploits and putative objectivity of the author (Walcott 24).
Walcott makes an attempt to maintain a birthright to two ancestral origins. One hand Euro-American and Afro-Caribbean on the other. He uses historical view to bring across a more conventional sense of a cyclic history. He makes tragic repeats of history and focuses on migration of the Caribbean pluralism and fore goes the cruelties and injustices that these people encountered. He then incorporates the grand gestures of Caribbean Odysseys and arrivals that are most contributing to the epic characteristic of his poem. He also depicts in the poem, a series of images, figures in a heroic kind of way from the Caribbean ancestral lifestyle.
More so, he incorporates themes from recent and older history in the underwritings on abiding concern of the American landscape as a palimpsest of the past. He goes ahead to speak out for the Native Americans as a tribute for the collective memory that was long lost in the genocide (Walcott 72). He gives accounts of the tribes from the great Nothern plains in his earlier epics and the suffering that he gives a twist of heroism in a positive art form.
The Odyssey is undeniably of an epic nature. It talks about the survival and homecoming of the traditional Greek warriors from war. More specifically it speaks of Odysseus and his return from Greek victory at Troy. He returns to Ithaca, where he left twenty years ago and left his wife. The poem depicts the hardships of these warriors in their bid to return home after several years. It is also how great a challenge it was for any of them to win these wars and survive the sea home (Henriksen 2). Many of them lost their lives trying to get back home to their loved ones. One of these warriors is Achilles, the greatest and most famous Greek hero of all time. His full story of war and his expectations are told extensively in the Iliad, another of Homer’s epics. The Odyssey is an outcome of the Greek tradition that came to being, gradually over several periods of the Greek ancient times. There are disasters and destructions of war that are not easy to depict from the Omeros. The accounts of the Trojan defeat and Greek victories mark the ancient Greek Bronze age.
It was called that due to the frequent use of Bronze before the advent of iron. Sometimes, it is also called the Mycenaean period, after the great city of Mycenae, the main power centres in that period. These periods had dominations of rich and powerful cities with the surroundings of military centres and international trade centres (Dante 213). The trade was extensive to the nearby islands including the magnificent island of Crete.
More so, Virgil epic discusses two realms of the afterlife. Virgil lived under the Emperor, Julius Caesar and wrote the Aeneid. The poem is an account of Aeneas (son of Venus) who also happened to be a Trojan prince of Troy. He travels to Italy and found the collection of rules that become emperors of Caesar and the Roman Empire. The poem revolves around political encounters and propaganda with an objective to honour Emperor Augustus (Vergilius 67). It also highlights Virgil’s encounter with Dido, the queen of Carthage, who commits suicide after Virgil leaves to go ahead with his journey. By the time he leaves, he has already created a new civilization in Italy. More of the Greek traditional beliefs is clear when Virgil visits Hades to meet with his dead father as a shadow of himself. There, he will learn the events that are yet to unfold about his future and his unending journey. For the first time in the history of Rome, he gives the crucial elements of the spirit world. Some of these Dante utilizes in his poem, the Inferno, about hell and afterlife (Vergilius 86). To be precise, Virgil’s work is based solely on the Greek and Roman mythologies and beliefs as well as traditions, and that makes his book undoubtedly epic.
In the Inferno, Dante describes his understanding of the afterlife and uses Virgil’s quotations to elaborate the encounters of hell. He sets himself up as a second Virgil but emphasizes that he is ‘not Aeneas nor Paul’ (Dante 15). His journey is that of a mortal human being that starts at the entrance to a forest that leads to the classical underworld of the ancient Greek. He encounters monstrous guardians such as the Charon, Minos and Cerberus that he borrows directly from Virgil’s writings. He also assimilates himself in Limbo, with a group of classical poets including Homer, Ovid, Horace and Lucan.
In the real sense, Dante is also sixth in religious poetry where he is chosen to journey and experience the encounters of hell and the afterlife. Dante hates factionalism and describes vividly the weaknesses that come with politics. He concludes that the human greed for power is a great discord between smaller political entities and it is inevitable. The Inferno elaborates this discord very clearly presented in the city of Dis that clearly depicts a ‘political life gone wrong’ (Dante 91).
The poem tries to argue that only a universal emperor with an absolute power over all other factions was unable to desire a greater power. That emperor would be the only solution to a lasting peace and end of conflicts. His poem not only describes Dante, but every other human being trapped in the nets of his sin. It is very strange because most people in his time did not accept Christ and Christianity were just beginning to take a hold of the political empires. The Roman Catholic was the only widespread Christianity and their belief in the afterlife, hell and heaven was what covered most of Dante’s work.
Dante’s work entails the format of the ancient epic poems that puts a lot of consideration to the number of syllables in each line of the poem. His is a work of classical poetry that marries perfectly the epic genre from the likes of Virgil and other mythological poets of the ancient Greek. He also uses the ideal imperial era that describes the perfect functioning of the epic times. Therefore, the reader finds himself encountering an ‘all-too-human’ collection of noble, beguiling and intriguing and very horrific characters.
The Omeros is wildly similar to Dante’s Inferno in that they both discuss the world of politics and what rulers and their subjects encounter. They are also very similar in that they both describe their characters and their dark moments in life. They give vivid descriptions of the struggles they face in life. These experiences marry quickly with the readers’ lives because every person encounters such problems once in their lifetime and feels the need to speak them out. However, only a few people like Dante and Walcott get the chance to share these feelings with the world. The major differences between the two works are that, although they are both struggles in life, they are from very different historical times. Walcott’s struggles are at a much later age of European and African descents while Dante dwells heavily on the Roman Empire times and Greek mythologies.
More so, the Omeros is similar to Odyssey in that they both describe events where individuals suffer great deals away from their familiar lands. In the Omeros, Walcott describes his discomfort in a bid to try and fit in communities where he did not originate. He discusses his fears in attempting to fit in at least one of the two communities of his origin. Here he even mentions his roots to have been of the Roman descent. Walcott employs the Homeric idea of parallelism very dramatically, by connecting the occurrences and characters across the development of his narrative (Vergilius 91). He also follows Homer’s broad pattern and sequence in moving from the state of affairs in Ithaca twenty years after Odysseus left. He also picks up some of Odysseus encounters on the journey whereas omitting Homer’s opening portion.
However, the Omeros cannot be described as an extension of the Odyssey or a rewrite of the same. The Odyssey dates back to the great ancient Greek wars and the great warriors as well as their journeys to and from war. In the Odyssey, the heroes find comfort in making it back to their homeland. The Odyssey is very much of the great wars of the ancient Greek while the Omeros has little if any events of epic wars. The two are quite different from each other and talk about two different historical times as well as different kinds of heroes. More so, Walcott does not base much on physical kind of wars and legends but on the racial, political and economic wars that people go through in their daily life. In Walcott’s world, it is not about winning these great wars and going back to their loved ones, he talks about wars that one finds themselves torn in between. A kind of war that needs one to go back to their inner self and try to look for their roots. Their ancestral origins and identify with their genetic family and community.


There is much effort to seek a method of bridging between canonical works of the Western culture and the poetry of the contemporary Caribbean. There is a significant difference between literary and oral epic genres. There are various works from leading scholars of written and spoken epic poetry as well as ancient, classical and slavery studies. Epic poetry has a central stand in the middle of an intense argument regarding the relevance and cultural importance of the works that led to the development of the Western culture. Walcott’s Omeros is often in citations as one example of poetry that is epic in its genre. The epic has for two millennia been a study object partly because the classical stories, as well as the modern cultures continually, inspire cultural as well as self-definitions.
The epic genre is a crucial contemporary art in both writing and performance too (Beissinger 318). Sometimes, the evaluation of legends lie on the number of days it takes to perform them. Emphasis on poetry assists in delimiting the field of contemporary performance (Beissinger 120). However, it does not signify the issues posed by the contributions that are in disconnections from prose genres with epic characteristics. Most epics are straight to the point while others are hard to identify. While many people may already have a fixed definition of what an epic genre entails, many scholars will continue to argue that epics are not definable by their physical state. Rather, what the poems entail and the significance of their contents to either a local or international original culture is what defines an epic genre. Conclusively, the Omeros is more of a modern style of literature than an epic genre.

Works Cited

Beissinger, Margaret H. Epic Traditions in the Contemporary World: The Poetics of Community. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 1999. Print.
Dante, Alighieri, and Stanley Lombardo. Inferno. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co, 2009. Print.
Dante, Alighieri. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Inferno: a Verse Translation, with an Introduction by Allen Mandelbaum. Trans. Allen Mandelbaum. New York, NY: Bantam; 1988. Print.
Henriksen, Line. Ambition and Anxiety: Ezra Pound's Cantos and Derek Walcott's Omeros As Twentieth-Century Epics. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. Print.
Homer. Odyssey. Trans. Stanley Lombardo. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2000. Print.
Vergilius, Maro Publius. Aeneid. Trans. Stanley Lombardo. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2005. Print.
Walcott, Derek. Omeros. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1990. Print.

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