Iliad Analysis

2387 words - 10 pages

Two warrior-centric cultures, separated by oceans, but united by institutionalized patriarchy and a codified sense of the ideal warrior. It is crucial to first discuss the context in which these two societies functioned. The Iliad is likely based off historical events that occurred in Western Turkey in the 12th century BC. This was a culture of frequent war and constant instability. On the other hand, Chushingura takes place in the early 18th century AD under the political background of the stable Tokugawa Shogunate and the relatively prosperous Genroku period. By this time samurai were less warrior and more bureaucratic administrators, which makes the events of Chushingura all the more impressive. This essay will analyze the two works comparatively under the framework of honor, shame, and fate. The primary difference between the two is the focus on individuality in the Iliad and the collective in Chushingura. Both works rely heavily on the concept of honor, but with significantly different cultural norms in regards to the accumulation or loss of this fundamental trait. Shame is more pronounced in the story of Chushingura relating to the more structured nature of samurai culture and the collective pressures involved. Finally, fate plays a greater role in the Iliad with the God’s playing a major role in the state of human existence.
Firstly, it is crucial to start with what is arguably the most important attribute in the Iliad. Warriors’ honor is represented primarily by their glory in battle and previous reputation of their ancestors. Honor plays a critical part of the story being the motivating factor between Achilles leaving the war over his quarrel with Agamemnon. Moreover, there is a sense that the acquisition of plunder must be equal based on status and to do otherwise is a besmirch on ones reputation “O wrapped in shamelessness, with your mind forever on profit, how shall any of the Achaeans readily obey you” (Homer, Iliad 1.148-150). There is an incredibly individualistic sense to the gaining of honor in battle with the vivid descriptions of the main characters slaughtering their enemies. This is part of the underlying moral core of the culture “Western views often construct morality on an individualistic basis whereby more weight is assigned to the character, virtue, or behavior of the individual” (Lai, 249). Throughout the Iliad a constant sense of individual main characters playing out the great epic predominates and even arguments between the Gods are done on a somewhat singular level. The emergence of the individual will from a traditional collective society is important to recognize as the Iliad likely had a large part to play in creating the narrative necessary for this cultural development to occur.
This sense of honor as an individual manifestation of self would be far less applicable to anyone of the 47 Ronin serving the will of lord Asano. Their revenge against Kira is not personal, but a response to what societal...

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