Comparing and Contrasting the Purposes and Methods of Communication of
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Comparing and Contrasting the Purposes and Methods of Communication of three important
literary works: The Iliad, Oedipus the King, and Aristotle's Poetics.
Upon reading a piece of literature, one of the first things a reader does is to identify the purpose and the mode of communication employed by the author. This
knowledge is extremely important in order to fully understand the complete message presented by the author. This essay will treat three major literary works taken
from Greek culture: Homer's The Iliad, Sophocles' Oedipus the King, and Aristotle's Poetics. These works obviously have many differences; even from first glance
one can see clearly that there is a difference in style of communication, but upon further analysis, one can find traits common in these works by carefully considering
the background and content for each work. With this analysis, one can synthesize a greater idea of the author's message when compared with another of these
works. First, each work will be analyzed in regard to purpose and method of communication, and then these works will be compared and finally contrasted with the
Some historians are not sure about the initial form of Homer's epic The Iliad, but whether or not Homer actually wrote down his poems, it now seems certain that
The Iliad and The Odyssey are part of an ancient literary tradition of oral composition. These were performed for groups mainly comprising the more wealthy
members of society. This is made evident since Homer gives a great deal of information even about the horses of the aristocracy (p. 24, near bottom), but one sees
no mention of the lower class. Homer's epic was also tailored to the rich to allow them to bask in the glory of their ancestors, as he often enters into a great ancestral
history, which often does not seem to have any relevance in the context in several parts of the work. Another purpose of this work could be to showcase the poetic
genius of a man like Homer. His audience certainly knew the story of the Trojan War and many of its important figures (p. 2, bottom) and thus the presentation could
easily become a spectacle of the poet's skill in representing the plot, and using the most beautiful language possible to mesmerize his audience. Thus, one begins to
discover the mode of communication in the work. Homer presents a narrative poem where he is often able to paint wonderful pictures of the action taking place. He
has the liberty in a narrative form to give his own idea to the story both in dialogue and also in giving details of the background or character in question. The tone
used to present his epic is often very vast and lofty, but also very serious. Homer's profound character development possibly is the most important element to
achieve his ultimate purpose in the work, which is entertainment.
Like Homer's epic, Sophocles' wonderful tragedy Oedipus the King is also written for the goal of entertainment. Sophocles also attempts to cause very strong
emotions to be brought to the surface during his work. Aristotle says that Oedipus allows the audience to undergo the ultimate emotions of fear and pity through the
course of several events (p.379-380). Sophocles' goal is to cause serious thinking on the part of the audience, as they consider the terrible situation that Oedipus
finds himself in. This leads to the mode of communication used to cause such emotion. The play does not rely on brilliant description or déictique, a French term
meaning an act of physical demonstration or detail. Rather, Sophocles relies entirely upon intense dialogue to achieve his extraordinary character development. He
does utilize the Chorus, which acts to communicate general opinion, but apart from that, everything communicated is in dialogue between a few major characters.
This will be an important comparison with The Iliad later on in this analysis.
In a genre quite different from the first two is Aristotle's literary criticism Poetics. Aristotle's purpose in this work is to rigorously analyze elements in literature. So
deeply is Aristotle involved in the literary tradition of tragedy that he actually intends to create a formula to create the perfect tragedy. With the same methods of his
Lyceum, Aristotle uses a very scientific, methodical approach in attaining his purpose (p.376, top). His communication is very organized and very logical. Although
his style of writing is obviously very different from these other two works, it can actually be
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Ancient Greek theatre, Narratology, Plot, Oedipus the King, Ancient Greek religion, Oedipus, Sophocles, Poetics, Homer, Aristotle, Tragedy, Iliad
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