Journal Essay #3
When the reader first opens Homer's epic poem The Iliad, the author's very first line states the poem's main premise: "Achilles' rage" (1); if that doesn't tell the reader anything, it's also the title of the first book. However, I've noticed that many people still find it difficult to determine who the heroic protagonist is in The Iliad. That's because the audience today doesn't believe that their view, of what constitutes a heroic protagonist, coincides with the typical heroic protagonist of the Ancient Greeks. Yes, contemporary readers will all probably agree that Achilles possesses a couple of the characteristics, that would make him a heroic protagonist (i.e. being extremely brave, ambitious for honor, physically strong, etc...). However, Achilles also possesses some less thought-of characteristics, that might cause contemporary readers to arguably disagree with Achilles being an heroic protagonist. Given all criteria that makes up an ...view middle of the document...
Achilles' ambition for honor, immortality, and glory when he speaks of his two fates: "If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy, / My journey home is gone, / But my glory never dies. / If I voyage back to the fatherland I love, / my pride, my glory dies/... true, but the life that's left me will be long, / the stroke of death will not come on me quickly" (492 - 500). Achilles is admitting here, that being a coward will allow him to live a longer life without honor; in addition, he seems to be seeking glory and immortality (by having his name living on) through the ages.
There are numerous examples of Achilles fighting something (or someone) god-like or an immortal. For instance, his battle with Hector could be said to be a battle with someone god-like because he the god's (i.e. Apollo, and very briefly Zeus) were helping Hector out; and even gave him power. Achilles is not fearful of the gods, and doesn't respect them. He commands respect via fear, so why would he respect the gods if he doesn't even fear them? A good example is how he's always challenging the gods. An even more specific example is when Achilles chases the god Apollo around the walls of Troy trying to catch him.
Achilles' outward physical appearance that's distinguishes him from other men is his animal-like savagery and carnivorous lust for blood. Achilles clearly demonstrates this when he says to Hector: "Do lions make peace treaties with me? / Do wolves and lambs agree to get along? / And that's how it is between you and me, / No talk of agreements until one of us / Falls and gluts Ares with his blood" (288 - 293).
While Achilles is not my personal favorite heroic protagonist in The Iliad, he does fulfill all the criteria that makes an epic poem's protagonist heroic; as I previously states above (and also, the other characteristics that I was not able to give further examples for). The fact is, that The Iliad is considered an epic. Therefore, I was compelled to base my final decision (that Achilles is the most heroic protagonist in The Iliad) based on the qualities that make an epic protagonist heroic.
Puchner, Martin. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2013. Print.