A Comparative Study Of The Point Of

View In The Epic Poem And In The Play As Used By Homer And Sopho Essay, Research Paper

The two works, The Odyssey and Oedipus Rex both exhibit

different styles of writing; the first being an epic poem and the second being a

tragic play. These styles are evidently both rather different, however they both

seem to be rather effective as those works have withstood the ravages of time.

It is therefore the goal of this paper to examine the styles of each work in

turn, in a comparative fashion, and discover the weaknesses and strengths of

each and also to determine the effect that these styles generate on the reader.

Although it must always be known that the copies of these works are merely

translations, a certain amount of freedom must be granted if anything is to be

accomplished. In the first work, The Odyssey, the narrative point of view is that of

third person omniscient as we are presented the story through the eyes of some

other all-knowing and ever present being who then relates the story to us. For

example, “She was afraid that the swineherd would recognize him if he saw him

undisguised,….” (Pg. 257). In the preceding excerpt from The Odyssey,

the feelings of the “she” referred to are revealed in a manner that would be

impossible without the third person omniscient point of view. We see further

evidence of this throughout the book as the point of view of the tale leaps from

one place to another; watching first one character and then another. For

instance, Book 1 in The Odyssey describes Telemachus and his exploits, it

jumps later on to Odysseus in Book 5. The effects of this narrative style are myriad upon the reader. First of, one

of the most notable effects is that the reader is influenced easily by the bias

or opinion of the author; as the reader’s perspective, is in all ways that

matter, that of the author regarding the unfolding of the tale. This can be both

good and bad; for while this kind of method can be used as a way to teach right

and wrong or some other such goal, it may also prevent free thought and a truly

unbiased examination of the events in a particular story. For instance, the

author often refers to people as being “wise” (Telemachus) or “bright-eyed”

(Athene) in a fashion that does indeed influence the reader as to their feelings

toward the character in question. Also, another effect that this method of

narrative point of view has on the reader is to inform them of things that they

would not otherwise know; such as, in the previous quote, that someone is

“afraid” or feeling some other emotion. This allows the reader to become more

intimate with the characters, giving them a sense of intimacy with a being that

is merely a set of words upon a sheet of paper. This can add volumes of depth to

a story, although there are other ways to do this. One unfortunate outcome of

this, however, is the tendency to rely merely on the narrator and not on the

dialogue between the characters to learn about what is happening and about the

characters themselves. This is not necessarily a disadvantage, as the

conversations of characters may seem somewhat trivial or not fulfilling enough

to produce revelation, however it can also mean the absence of a whole new venue

of point of view, which will now be examined via Oedipus Rex. As has already been alluded to, the point of view in Oedipus Rex is

very different from that in The Odyssey; in fact, it is almost the exact

opposite of that in The Odyssey, making it the perfect complement to that

work for the purpose of this examination. In fact, while The Odyssey is

teeming with a sort of point of view similar to some sort of storyteller,

Oedipus Rex is written in the style of a play and seems to have no

narrative point of view at all. For instance, instead of merely saying what is

happening like in The Odyssey, Sophocles reveals the events transpiring

through use of the dialogue between the characters and also by using the Chorus,

which serves at times the role of an impromptu narrator (ie. “Sons and daughters

of Thebes, behold: this was Oedipus, Greatest of Men;……. His happiness down

to the grave in peace.”; last paragraph of the play). Like the first use of narrative point of view, this instance has many effects

upon the reader First of all, it allows the reader to draw his own conclusions

with much more freedom then in the previous example when much of what was said

was said with the taint of the author’s bias. Again, this can be good or bad,

depending on the wishes of the author. On the one hand, it does leave the

interpretation more up to the fancy of the author, however it does make it

somewhat harder for a clear theme to be discovered within the work in question.

Also, it does make the reader follow the story with a slightly higher amount of

attention, as the action is not presented in as straightforward a fashion as

that of the third person point of view; something that may make it more

difficult to follow for some, or more pleasurable a read for others. As a

counterpart to the intimacy developed by the revelation of emotion through the

third person, this method of point of view creates another form of intimacy; one

created in the womb of familiarity, as in plays such as Oedipus Rex there

is no middleman narrator between the reader and the characters, which may aid in

the understanding of those same characters on a more personal level. Despite the

fact that the story apparently has no narrator, there is still a narrator of

sort hidden within the confines of the story; a narrator already alluded to: the

chorus. The effect of the chorus is somewhat wondrous in the play as it allows

the freedom and advantages of a non-narrator / third person point of view story,

but still allows the input of some of the views of the author and also allows

the story to proceed without the need to divulge all the necessary details

through medium of inter-character discourse. For instance, the author is able to

insert some third person style information through the chorus, while maintaining

the neutrality of a somewhat guileless point of view. Throughout this paper, we have taken a look at the different point of view

and narrative techniques that Sophocles and Homer used in their great works

Oedipus Rex and The Odyssey. By examining these two works and their

ying-yang style techniques, we have come to discover that greatness in

literature may be achieved through many different roads and paths; and that

variety is indeed a highly valued resource. We saw how the techniques of the

epic poem and the technique involved in the tragic play both created a positive

and negative effect on the reader and also that they both served, in their own

particular way, to create works of literature that lasted through the ages and

withstood the ravages of time.



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