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'How heroic do you find the character of Achilles?'

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Introduction

'How heroic do you find the character of Achilles?' A hero is more than just a character that it especially noble, courageous, self-sacrificing etc. A hero is also a protagonist, a character to whom we can relate, and with whom we can sympathise. Ultimately a hero is a character with which we can identify, and an example which each of us wishes to follow. Achilles often appears to be such a character. Of all the Homeric heroes, he is by far the most passionate and emotional. When begging his mother to help him in book 1 he speaks "with tears falling". His protection of Briseis and his honour is extreme. He goes to the lengths of withdrawing from the fighting, even though "his heart yearned for battle", he causes and endures the suffering his fellow Argives, and his speaks affectionately of Briseis ...read more.

Middle

In this passage there can be no sympathy for Achilles. His anger at Agamemnon's insult in book 1 can be understood. But by book 9 he has got what he wanted: the Trojans are winning, Agamemnon has realised his mistake [although admittedly none of those coming to Achilles make any offer of a public apology by Agamemnon], and he could have all that he had lost. In book 1 Achilles stubborn attitude could be excused as heat of the moment (we are after all, talking about Achilles whom Peleus urged to control "your heart's high passion"), and in book 1 Achilles is perhaps unaware of at least unthinking of the consequences of his actions (i.e. the death of many Danaans). Achilles' real crime is to let his personal quarrel with Agamemnon get in the way of his duty to his friends. ...read more.

Conclusion

What is remarkable is that Achilles in fact sees the defeat of Hektor as a triumph for the whole Greek army, not just personal revenge, and he says "We have won great glory - we have killed glorious Hektor". In the act of returning to the fight and killing Hektor Achilles has traded his own life (i.e. he has chosen the short and glorious life) for the fall of Troy. This is why I feel that Achilles is a true hero. He is wronged massively, by his friends and by cruel fate. He grapples with his own demons of anger and pride. But eventually he corrects this by making the ultimate sacrifice for his people. His triumph over adversity is a story common throughout world literature, and is one to which we can all relate, and one which each of us in our own lives, has emulated in some way or another. ...read more.

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