Unformatted text preview: The Secrets of the Swift Runner Achilles is classic literatures? greatest characters ever engraved on paper. Achilles, son of Peleus, King of Myrmidons, and Thetis, sea nymph, comes to Troy as part of a Greek force led by King Agamemnon. Unlike most protagonists, Achilles does not develop significantly over the course of the epic. As the story unravels Achilles wrath for Agamemnon intensifies, but only after the death of Patroclus does he redirect his rage towards Hector. Achilles? bloodlust, wrath, and pride continue to consume him. As a result he mercilessly mauls his opponents and does not relent in this brutality until the last book when King Priam begs for the return of his son?s desecrated corpse. Achilles embodies the characteristics of the epic hero particularly in his apparent lack of character and control and lust for fame. Proud and headstrong, Achilles takes offense easily and reacts with blistering indignation when perceived that his honor has been insulted. In the beginning of Book One, after Agamemnon erroneously accuses Achilles of cheating him of his prize, Chryseis, Achilles insulted, retorts at Agamemnon reminding him of all the honors and loyalty he has earned while he shamelessly earns his pillage through his lust for greed. ?Shameless-armored in shamelessness-always shrewd with greed?my honors never equal yours, whenever we sack some wealthy Trojan stronghold-my arms bear the brunt of the raw, savage fighting?I have no mind to linger here disgraced, brimming your cup and piling up your plunder,? (1.174-202). Achilles cannot control his pride or rage, which at some point in the epic poisons him, and as a result he does not stop his rage and brutality against the Trojans and Hector?s corpse. After Hector took his last breathe, Achilles ruthlessly molested his corpse. ?He was bent on outrage, on shaming noble Hector?Piercing the tendons, ankle to heel behind both feet, he knotted straps of rawhide through them both, lashed them to his chariot, left the head to drag?he whipped his team to a run and breakneck on they flew, holding nothing back.?(2.467-472). Achilles? brutality and outrage are established on his lust for infamy and legacy. Achilles is driven by the thirst for glory. He is willing to sacrifice everything else so that his name will be remembered. During his fight against Hector, Achilles refuses any aide from his comrades; afraid he would be second best. ?And brilliant Achilles shook his head at the armies, never letting them hurl their sharp spears at Hector-someone might snatch the glory, Achilles come in second,?(2.245-217). Another case of Achilles infamy ?Hector-surely you thought when you stripped Patroclus? armor that you, you would be safe! Never fear of me-far from fighting as I was-you fool! Left behind there, down by the beaked ships his great avenger waited, a greater man by far-that man was I, and I smashed your strength!?(2.390-345). Achilles? deep-seated character flaws constantly impede his ability to act with nobility and integrity. This trait is accountable for his sordid response to Hector?s distorted plea of honoring his body when he?s dead. ?You unforgivable, you?don?t talk to me of pacts. There are no binding oaths between men and lions-wolves and lambs can enjoy no meeting of the minds-they are all bent on hating each other to the death. So with you and me, no love between us, no truce till one or the other falls or gluts with blood,?(2.309-314). The respect for a fallen enemy vanishes as bloodlust, vengeance, and rage run through Achilles? veins. Achilles ruthlessly impends and torments Hector as he breathes his last breathe. ?Would to god my rage, my fury would drive me now to hack your flesh away and eat you raw-such agonies you have caused me! Ransom? No man alive could keep the dog-packs off you, not if they haul in ten, twenty times that ransom and pile it here before me and promise fortunes more-no, not even if Dardan Priam should offer to weigh out your bulk in gold! Not even then will you noble mother lay you on your deathbed, mourn the son she bore?The dogs and birds will rend you-blood and bone?Die, die! For my own death, I?ll meet it freely-whenever Zeus and the other deathless gods would like to bring it on!?(2.408-432). Although bloodlust and rage continue to consume Achilles, part of him yearns to live a long and easy life but personal fate forces him to choose between glory and an easy life. Achilles begs his mother for aide against Agamemnon when he snatches Briseis away from him. His desperate cries and pleas towards his mother, verifies the innocence and lack of valor. In conclusion, even though Achilles may strike modern readers as less than heroic, he does embody the characteristics of an epic hero particularly in his apparent lack of character control and lust for fame. Achilles, unlike most protagonists, does not develop significantly over the course of the epic. Faults teach us the errors of our judgment and how to ameliorate our character. However, the countless faults that Achilles committees only seems to urge him committee more malicious crimes. Furthermore, all men are good and if they commit evil then it is out of envy, ignorance, or arrogance....
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This note was uploaded on 06/10/2008 for the course CAMS 025 taught by Professor Shaw-colyer,eugen during the Spring '07 term at Penn State.
- Spring '07