The Shield of Achilles:
Outside Iliad Outside Essay II
The shield of Achilles represents strength, power, and growth.
mirrors his persona:
his characteristic of being the strongest and fearless warrior, his power to be
“possessed” and “murderous” among men, and his eventual compassion and sympathy toward
The shield embodies growth, balance, and passion, but Auden changes the symbolic
imprint of the shield, creating turmoil, death, and hopelessness.
The portion of the shield normally characterized by:
livelihood, agriculture, and
peaceful congregation, is defined by death and darkness.
Auden sees bareness engraved,
humiliation, and spinelessness through images of, “Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot/
Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)/ And sentries sweated for the day was hot:/ A
crowd of ordinary decent folk/ Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke/ As three
pale figures were led forth and bound/ To three posts driven upright in the ground.” (Auden 31-
This is a biblical allusion to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the two thieves; these three
men were raised on crosses, displayed for all to see the punishments of their crimes, having no
hope, or means for survival.
The act of crucifixion has dehumanized the individuals, like
Achilles was characterized as being inhuman, possessed, and murderously doomed.
paradox of this scene illustrates Achilles’ shield as being the cause of his death, this