Free Custom «The Iliad» Essay Sample
From the very first pages of the depiction of the relationships between the main characters, Homer shows that the idea of honour and dignity guides the Greeks in their life. Homeric Iliad is often referred to in the context of the shame culture of the Greek society of that time. The first book of the epic shows very vivid examples of how for the sake of their personal feelings of pride and honour, Agamemnon and Achilles sacrificed other people, ideas and principles. Both Agamemnon and Achilles captured girls as the booty in the war. Both of them could not renounce taking these girls even though they understood that it could have led to serious consequences for their people and it would look worthy in the eyes of the public. Besides, the idea that they would be ashamed and humiliated if the girls were taken away prevailed over the wisdom. The desire to restore their honour involved Achilles and Agamemnon into the revengeful personal struggle.
Describing the constant warfare, Homer emphasizes the tragedy of these events by showing the meeting of Hector and Andromache. Their conversation shows the grief and despair of the wife and the doom of the husband. The war breaks families and ruins destinies of people. Hector clearly understands that he might be killed at any time and that his wife might be captured and raped. However, he cannot betray his honour and he has to abandon his little son and his weeping wife. “…dreadfully I feel shame in front of the Trojans and women of Troy of the long robes if back here I skulk like a coward, avoiding the warfare, neither does my heart let me…” (Homer 128). The grief of this family is just another example, but a reader understand that over ten years, the war has ruined millions of families and has brought tragedy to millions of homes.
The desire of Achilles to revenge the death of his friend Patroclus shows his commitment to his friend. Therefore, Aristotle called him megalopsychos, which means a person of great soul. It is true that Achilles had to have considerable attachment to his friend and willpower in order to decide to go to the war in the name of his friend. On the one hand, his deed characterizes him as a noble, devoted person as the loyalty to his friend made him return to the war after his decision not to take part in it. His grief was so strong and his wish to revenge was so overwhelming that it pushed back the fear of death. On the other hand, referring to the theme of culture of shame, it can be clearly seen that again, Achilles’ deed is also led by the feelings of shame and honour. He is ashamed that his friends perished at the hands of Hector and he seeks the reestablishment of his dignity. Therefore, Achilles can be considered as a good loyal friend, but his decision is guided by a complex of feelings, not always worthy ones.
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Describing the battle between Hector and Achilles, Homer manages to create a very vivid picture of the pursuit. He uses the metaphors that enrich the story and make a reader involved into the action. “Just as a hawk high up in the mountains, the nimblest of winged things, easily swoops down after a timorous fluttering pigeon – she takes flight before him, while he near at hand with a shrill cry darts at her over and over…” (Homer 383). The detailed description of the characters’ actions allows readers to feel the tension of the struggle, to follow the development of their emotions and to perceive their in-depth feelings. One can feel the author’s admiration of Hector in his last wish to be given to his parents after his death and disdain of Achilles for his savagery and iron firmness. The language and style of the author play a crucial role in the readers’ perception of the reality of the scene.
The ending of the epic shows another stage of Achilles’ development from a furious, hot-tempered, selfish warrior to a person who is able to sympathize with and share other people’s feelings. The scene between Achilles and Priam reveals the personal growth of Achilles as he becomes able to understand another person’s grief and be compassionate. Throughout the epic, the readers see Achilles as a severe warrior destroying and humiliating all his enemies. His agreement to give Hector’s body to his father and letting the Troyan people stop the war to bury him contribute to his image of a hero and change the readers’ attitude.
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