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The Humanity Of Achilles Essay

1170 words - 5 pages

As George Eliot once said, “It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” Whether viewing a piece of artwork or another person, there are often many points of view to evaluate in order to find the true core of the subject. In great works of literature, authors often create complex and dynamic characters to add depth and meaning into the story. In the Iliad, Homer beautifully depicts the multifaceted character of Achilles as an epic hero. As readers look closely at Achilles, he reveals different sides of himself as the epic poem develops. Representing the struggle between his dominant, selfish, and Dionysian nature as an epic hero and his hidden empathetic Apollonian core, Achilles reveals the mythos of the Iliad which states that war degrades mankind into objects and only the pursuit of Apollonian regard for others renews their humanity.
Early on in the Iliad readers realize that Achilles is primarily a Dionysian man in nature who often acts on his impulses to strive for glory and seek revenge. The three things men want most—power, possession, glory—are the primary motivation for Achilles’ impulsive actions. When describing his anger after the taking of Bryseis, he states that she is “a prize [Achilles] sweated for and soldiers gave [him]” (Homer 1.189). The praxis of Achilles illustrated in this quote shows his inner desire for glory, a trait that is often associated with that of a Dionysian because it deals with inner passions and the impulsive nature of man. “The primary motivation for military aggression is greed- greed for material gains, for power and for fame” (Ng 78) is a fitting allusion to Achilles because he is the great military hero of Greece and while Achilles is destined to lead Greece to victory, he is ultimately driven by the idea of power. In Grecian society, warriors measured their worth through military status and plunder. The taking of Bryseis angered Achilles because she represented his success as a leader. Achilles also consistently shows another Dionysian trait throughout the Iliad: the seeking of revenge. In the Iliad Patroclus, a trusted friend of Achilles goes to fight against Hector while Achilles is away from the war. Ultimately, Patroclus is murdered by Hector on the battlefield and Achilles greatly mourns him (Homer 16.77-867). Achilles was deeply saddened by the death of his beloved comrade and “grief took hold of [him]” (Hamilton 197). Representing Sigmund Freud’s principle of homo lomini lupus or man is a wolf to man, Achilles wants to avenge his friend’s life by murdering the one who murdered him. Mankind has the tendency to do unto others as others have done unto them. Hector killed Patroclus but Achilles is blind to his motives as to why. He doesn’t see that Hector killed Patroclus in self-defense during a battle but he only views Hector as a murderer. The blindness with which Achilles acts shows an immense force working in Achilles. According to Simone Weil force is “that...

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