Good vs Evil

EH 208 Final Exam

Classics of World Literature

Spring 2003

9) Choose at least five writers whose major theme is concerned with Good versus Evil. Explain how, what, and why this theme is important in their works.

Writers who had the theme Good versus Evil include the Old and New Testaments, St. Augustine, Dante, and ancient writings from Egypt. The Good Vs. Evil theme is very important in these works because it displays their value systems and their sense of morality.

The underlying message spoken by Jesus in the Old Testament indicates a basic philosophy in Christianity, a philosophy which demands self-sacrifice, self-discipline, and belief in a higher premise. This idea of Christianity further describes man and the conflicts he endures in life. One of these conflicts is the battle of good vs. evil and the path to good, or perfection. The idea of good is symbolized by heaven and evil by hell. To reach heaven, one must challenge one’s faults and selfishness. One must indulge in self-sacrifice and try to reach their full potential toward perfection. The idea of evil is just the opposite with sins being the actions that inhibit the path toward Good (perfection).

St. Augustine vividly describes his life as a rites of passage from child to adult. As a child Augustine describes how he began to learn. His ability to learn leads to his philosophy on life and what is inherently “good” or “evil.” As Augustine grew he expanded physically, mentally, morally and spiritually. In boyhood, Augustine’s priorities changed from selfishness to social acceptance and glory. As Augustine matured he realized those were not the true “good” in the world and they were, in fact, evils. Augustine describes his constant battle of good vs. evil throughout his life. As he became an adult, he realized there were philosophies to follow and a higher calling in life better than just satisfying personal needs and desires. St. Augustine finally realized what was truly good. He gave himself to God, the higher being, and accepted good over the evils of human selfishness and glory.

Dante’s Inferno describes a mystical journey of one man’s many realizations through the gates of heaven and hell. This story has many references to Christianity and uses characters such as Virgil to symbolize human nature. The ideas related to the teachings of Christianity include the them Good Vs. Evil. Of the many literary themes Dante expresses in Inferno is the relationship between a soul\'s sin on Earth and the punishment he receives in Hell. Again, like the Old and New Testament, the idea of Heaven is good and hell is evil. The idea of Christ versus Satan is another example of ultimate good vs. ultimate evil. This theme allows the reader to understand Dante’s value system and judgments on moral principles.

The Leiden Hymns are similar to the Old and New Testaments and their Good Vs. Evil theme. The Old and New Testament describe a supreme being, God Almighty, and his awesome power and perfection. Both forms of poetry help us to understand the language of worship and praise of this Supreme Being. The notion of perfection is in both poetry styles. This notion of perfection symbolizes “good.” The opposite of this “good”, this perfection, is evil.

All these works illustrate the Good vs. Evil them to convey how they view the world. Good is most often connected to God or heaven and Evil to imperfection and hell. The reader is able to discern the values of the authors by their depiction of Good vs. Evil.