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Art is one of the popular ways of expressing individual opinions, depending on the imagination of artists, interpretation of events and understanding of social, cultural and historical activities. Art can be presented as verbal or non-verbal in paintings, sculptures, songs, stories and dances among others. The following paper will analyze three artistic impressions with the theme of hell or the underworld.
Cerberus is an impression of the underworld in form of a sculpture, based on Greek and Roman mythologies. The sculpture is categorized under legendary culture and it is presented as a three-headed dog at the entrance of the underworld. Cerberus has been identified as one of the key figures of the underworld, hence going by its nickname, Hellhound. The sculpture has been modified by various artists over the years and symbolizes a guard against individuals escaping from the other side of the river Styx. The hellhound represents the powers existing in the underworld and the forces guarding the area by preventing individuals already in hell from backing down and going back to freedom. The sculpture is mainly made of clay and stone and varies according to the artist curving it, thereby making it have a different background, and at times have different number of heads.
The sculpture holds a significant historical relevance, since it draws some historic events related to its existence and captivity from the underworld forces. Based on some analysis, Cerberus’ heads represent stages of human development, birth, youth and old age, and upon death, the hellhound allows the spirits of the dead to enter hell and never leave. The three-headed dog is perceived as Hades’ loyal dog, with Hades being the mythological ruler of the underworld. Cerberus therefore provides the viewer with a significant representation of hell and the underworld by encompassing the forces reigning in the underworld and its significance in allowing entry and exit from the underworld. The dog symbolizes the dark forces of hell under the Greek and Roman mythologies, which perceive Hades as the ruler of the underworld and the dog as hell’s loyal protector.
The directions of the heads are meant to signify the ability of the dog to have a multi-directional view, and hence possess supernatural powers to ensure that no one who enters hell leaves. It also symbolizes captivity of souls trapped in hell, since its presence prevents any of the souls already in hell from leaving and regaining freedom. Since the dog has had slight modifications over the years, the backgrounds differ, as well as the head features. In some sculptures, the creature has fierce teeth as if ready to strike and in others, the creature is curved with elongated heads to signify its might in the underworld.
In the novel, Blood Meridian, there is a significant reference to, and representation of Hellenic tragedy, which demonstrates the dominance of evil powers in the actions of the ‘kid’ and the judge. According to the novel, the author tries to introduce some alien powers and influence into the novel through the kid, who is first brought out as innocent, but indulges in violent activities, when compelled to do so, or in self-defense. According to the novel, forces from the underworld are represented through judge Holden, who perceives his life as eternal, and who is determined to change the course of society by altering its cultures and norms. The author presents the judge as the bearer of the supernatural powers, since as the story unfolds, all the gang members claim to have come across the judge at least once in their lives and before joining the Glanton’s Gang.
The judge is represented as the source of evil, since he openly supports and predicts its existence. He has been introduced into the story to demonstrate the forces of evil and the underworld and their influence on the lives of humans. Whereas the kid abhors evil with time, he is compelled to indulge in the same by the judge, who sometimes threatens their lives with Tobin to ensure that the two go back to violence. Although the author fails to make an exclusive reference to hell and the underworld, he generates Gnosticism through the characters, and especially through Holden, who is seen as the pillar of evil in the story. The judge’s main role is to incite violence from the start. In one instance at the beginning of the story, he blamed a preacher of raping two minors and incited the church followers to kill the preacher, despite the fact that the allegations were false.
The judge’s main aim is to become a “suzerain” or the ruler of rulers. He undermines the presence of other rules and positions himself at the helm of leadership by misleading other innocent individuals and compelling them to indulge in violence and murder. He has therefore been developed to represent the forces in the underworld, who only advocates for evil deeds by condoning violence and hostility. The judge does not believe in a fair and just society. Rather, he introduces his selfish interests by inciting the kid and his group to indulge in violent activities, and is always opposed to constructive interaction.
Scenes in Hell
The drawing Scenes in Hell by Hieronymus Bosch is another artistic impression of hell and the underworld. The painting, which has been done using a pen, was based on renaissance style and has different creatures and artistic impressions of suffering and confusion. According to the drawing, the artist has created different creatures engaging in some frightening and terrifying activities, like spitting fire and creeping along with intentions of harming anything on their way. One of the notable creatures looks like a crab and is creeping with its mouth wide open. In addition, the author tries to bring about some aspects of darkness, by drawing some creatures hiding from others, behind either rocks or bushes. The drawing tends to generate a representation of the underworld and hell due to the complicated nature of organisms and because of the manner in which the organisms tend to conceal and hide from others, while contemplating for an attack.
The drawing generates some historical significance, especially with the use of some crustaceans and insects, some of the historical animals associated with the underworld. Similarly, the artist has brought about the concept of suffering through some characters, perceived to be in pain, thereby generating pain and suffering for those who are hell bound. The painting also establishes a barrier between two different cultures or societies, featured in this case by a dotted line running across the page. The presence of many weird creatures and characters develops some aspect of the unknown, and the nature of the drawings make the view to relate with the underworld, the only place believed to shelter weird and scary creatures. As religious contents explain, hell is a place for suffering and anguish, and it is expected that all creatures known to cause suffering will be in hell in order to execute their mandates of torture to those who will go to hell. The drawing therefore demonstrates a confused and irresolute society, where only violence and suffering reign, hence preparing the viewer for negative issues in case one lands in hell.
The drawing draws together different creatures, which seem ready to attack anything that crosses their path, an impression that generates fear and shows how the place is filled with lawlessness, confusion and selfish interests. Judging by the manner in which the creatures have been sketched, it is evident that there is no mercy or procedural way of doing anything. All the creatures seem to be guided and influenced by personal interests to satisfy their personal needs at the expense of other lives. The drawing demonstrates a place of chaos and suffering, and since it is based on religious beliefs, it is meant to illustrate what humans expect once they choose to follow the condemned path of sin. Through the artist’s imagination, the viewers are offered with a representation of how hell and the underworld can be cruel and harsh.
Comparison of Genres
Hell and the underworld have been presented as places of suffering and anguish from the three artistic works. According to the artists, there has been an attempt to demonstrate that hell is full of lawlessness, confusion and selfish interests. From the first genre of artistic works, the sculpture, different artists have managed to develop the image of the hellhound but have maintained the significant similarity of three heads, to represent the development stages of man. One of the drawbacks in the sculptures is that the observer cannot immediately relate it to hell, unless there are some background materials explaining its relationship with the underworld. This means that the sculpture can offer limited explanations, since background information rarely backs it up to explain its relationship and the intentions of the artists. However, the novel generates one of the best analysis of hell and the underworld since it offers some explanations and helps the reader to understand the intentions of the writer. In Blood Meridian, the reader gets to understand the feelings and intentions of the author through the characters developed in the story. In addition, a novel also tends to explain the meaning of some traits associated with a specific character, thereby generating a good reference point for analysis and categorization of the characters.
The judge is brought up as being driven by self-interests and through characterization, the reader is in a position to relate the judge’s character with underworld characteristics and to understand that the judge represents evil powers controlling humanity. In addition, the author makes it clear that throughout the novel, the kid was an innocent person, who was compelled to indulge in violence by the dark powers of the judge. The drawing is similar to the sculpture, although it can be more advanced in terms of contents. In addition, a drawing can also have a unique design that will relate with the viewer and help in understanding the intentions of the artists.