The Humanity of Achilles Essay

Decent Essays

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 …show more content…

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 x that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing” (Benfey,82). In this case the force that acts on Achilles is the degrading force of anger due to war. The war has stripped Achilles of his humanity and ability to act rationally. If Achilles continues to behave primarily in a Dionysian way, he will become the cause of his own ultimate detriment.

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