Portrayal Of Religion In Literature

Religion plays an important role in every man’s life. Its impact is manifested on every person daily affairs and his or her behavior. Hundreds of literatures that explicitly tackle religion have already been written. While the list may be inexhaustible, the Metamorphoses, Aeneid, Inferno and Odyssey serve as some of the popular literary works where a religious strand can be looked into.

The fact that the Metamorphoses by Ovid composed of mythological stories printed in the form of poetry gives one the first impression that divine beings are already incorporated into the book and that, consequently, the “myth” in these literary piece may have something to do with religion. True enough, the various sections found within the book have a common subject— the power of a divine entity and how such power determines the fate of men. Most of the transformations that happen in the stories are of people being “punished” for “the sins” they have committed (Ovid, p.171).

This punishment of sins can be taken to mean as one way of reflecting justice in the sense that the action of man is essentially incorporated with a corresponding responsibility and that God—or religion—has a corresponding role in the provision of these sanctions. By focusing on the relationship between the individuals and God in the Metamorphoses, one can immediately draw the idea that religion is the binding force between the two, bridging the invisible—and perhaps inconceivable—distance that separates the mortal from the immortal.

Metamorphoses shows great belief in the power of God such as the instance of ‘creation’ where “the king of the gods divided the year into four new seasons” (Ovid, p. 10) and the belief that every person committing a sin should undergo a punishment such as “impiety and its awful punishment” (Ovid, p. 293). All his stories tell us widely of the power and influence that God and religion has on people. Dante Alighieri’s Inferno begins on Good Friday and ends on Easter day showing the awareness of the author on these two crucial Christian doctrines that focus on God.

Dante tries to create a creative connection between a person’s sins on Earth and the sentence the man or woman gets in Hell such as the case when people are “condemned for gullet sins” (Alighieri, p. 51) and “for carnal sin” (Alighieri, p. 41). The angry people are made to stifle on mud, the enraged people assault each other, the greedy people are forcefully made to eat human excreta etc. All these inspirations grant the majority of Inferno’s moments of stunning descriptions and representational power, and also provide to shed light on the primary theme of Dante—the flawlessness of God’s fairness.

Readers might feel that the torments that Dante underwent were very harsh, yet the author justifies the fact that sinners are punished according to the severity of their sins. According to Dante, God’s justice appears as strictly purposeful, unthinking, and remote, and that “divine justice searches the moral character of all created beings” (Alighieri, p. 324). There appears to be no mitigating situations in Hell, and punishment is a must for every sinner. People who show sympathy to the people suffering have a lack of thoughtfulness.

Taking into account his Inferno, Dante appears to be a strict follower of Christian principles, or at least a literary author who employs the Christian conception of Hell in order to amplify the main contentions behind Inferno (Sanders, p. 112). As Dante feels that fraud is a greater evil compared to violence, the main intention of the author is not to think about evil but to teach and support the importance of Christian principles. It can also be observed that Dante’s intention in writing Inferno is to show a brief picture of the terrible political activities in the fourteenth-century of Florence.

This has a major role in the religious conception of Inferno because, through the literary work, Dante stresses his personal view that Church and the State are not different but identical authorities on Earth. This reflects the idea that religion should take an authoritative role in the context of the larger society. Dante also gives many references to the Greek and Roman community. According to Dante, religion and faith takes the topmost place in a person’s life and religion has its impact on any person who has faith in God and believes in Hell and being punished for the evils and sins he has committed.

Dante illustrates this point by stating the instance where “Saint Paul, the chosen Vessel, came to carry back a strengthening of that faith from which salvation always must begin” (Alighieri, p. 13). On the other hand, The Aeneid tells the story of how something great got started, how Aeneas had to let go Troy to form a new Rome. One of the most unforgettable incidents is when Aeneas weeps on leaving Carthage. Virgil shows how the messenger of the gods indirectly asks Aeneas to leave Troy (Virgil, p. 140).

It is perhaps a manifestation of divine intervention, as most people call it, which leads one into the realization that a Divine entity manifested through religion has a lot to do with the affairs of human beings. Since the course and purpose of Aeneas’s path are destined and that the pain and fame he had to face in combat as the story continues cannot change his fate, God would have certainly have had a huge role in changing Aenas fate. It tells us that The Aeneid is inclined to relating how a Divine authority has the power to greatly alter the lives of men.

In essence, The Aeneid shows consideration for the belief in gods in the exploits of ancient kingdoms, such as the passage “the King of the Gods has sorted out your fate, so rolls your life, as the world rolls through its changes” (Virgil, p. 116) The Trojans moving from Troy to Italy are shown in the first part of Aeneid. Dido the Queen wishes Aeneas, but destiny rejects her, and the desire for Aeneas makes her commit suicide. Virgil wrote the Aeneid in a period of the Golden age of Roman Empire when Caesar Augustus was the emperor.

Virgil compares the biased and communal circumstances of his period with the hereditary custom of the idols and Greek gods, to show that the political rule under Augustus was traditionally resulting from the gods. Since The Aeneid is filled with foresight and mystical calculations, with dreams, strange visits from people who are dead, puzzling omens, and messengers from God, it can hardly be denied that the story itself is filled with religious precepts that correspond to contemporary society.

The weather is used as a power to express God’s will. The storm at the start represents the fury when Juno sends it. The Goddess Venus protects the Trojans by calling the God Neptune. All these instances show faithfulness in the context of the literary piece inasmuch as it reveals the significance of a deep faith and belief in God and religion. Meanwhile, Homer’s Odyssey is the story of a man with many complications surrounding him.

In this literary piece, the power of God and faith in religion is shown when Greek gods come in various forms to relate with humans. The story also reveals that the gods show compassion to mortals such as the instance when Athena said that her “heart breaks for Odysseus, that seasoned veteran cursed by fate so long” (Homer, p. 79). It tells us that, although gods have superior power above all mortals, they nevertheless have (or at least some of them do have) a sense of pity and remorse for the wretched conditions of humanity.

It gives us the impression that gods do have a definitive role in the lives of mortals at least in the context of Odyssey. All these literatures have one thing in common—religion or religions have implied meanings and consequences to the life of the characters. The characters in the literary works are widely influenced by their corresponding Divine Beings and their religion and that the differing status between the struggling individual and the powerful Divine Beings shows how one is subordinated before the other.

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