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Should We Think That Weil Is Right, or Rather That the Iliad Gives Us Good Grounds for Optimism About Our Prospects for Happiness, Order And/or Freedom?

Autor:   •  December 11, 2018  •  Essay  •  1,435 Words (6 Pages)  •  67 Views

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Should we think that Weil is right, or rather that the Iliad gives us good grounds for optimism about our prospects for happiness, order and/or freedom?

Force in the Iliad, be it inhuman force, fits of uncontrollable rage or irresistible lust, enslaves the characters and controls their actions, leading to inescapable decisions that disrupt order and happiness. Weil asserts that in the setting of extreme warfare, warriors are usurped by rage and the obligation to kill, becoming instruments of destruction, whereas slaves become soulless objects that operate on basic survival instincts. But throughout the scenes of the Iliad, characters fleetingly show the ability to fight the powerful forces imposed upon them by enemies, superiors, themselves, or the setting itself. When characters are able to regain touch with their soul and sense of humanity, they free themselves from the forces that turn them into objects and become human again. In the Iliad, we see that love, compassion, respect for others make that possible. And although these instances are fleeting, their presence in time of warfare where force dominates individuals show hope for order, happiness, and humanity rather than inevitable capitulation to dehumanizing forces.

The evolving relationship between Priam and Achilles in Book 24 shows many glimpses of raw compassion, love, and admiration.

kneeling down beside Achilles, clasped his knees

and kissed his hands, those terrible man-killing hands (24.560-561)

Priam committing this unbearable act of utter subjugation shows he is enslaved by grief, a force that transforms him into a puppet driven only by the goal of retrieving his son’s corpse. And to him, Achilles is not an enemy or murderer of his son; he is merely a powerful figure that holds infinitely more force than Priam does in that he is holding his son’s body captive.

But this segregation of the two characters where one is a powerless slave of the other ends when they cry together, holding each other’s hands.

Taking the old man’s hand

he gently moved him back. And overpowered by memory

both men gave way to grief (24.593-595)

The weeping can seem like the two characters are just withdrawing into their private world, driven by the force of sadness. However, through this act of commiseration for each other, they are transcending the boundaries they had as suppliant and answerer, weak and powerful, Trojan and Greek. Priam weeps for “man-killing” Hector; the description, up to this point in the poem, has been attributed to Achilles multiple times. Through attributing Achilles’ epithet for his own son, he equates Hector to Achilles to a degree, weeping for the hardships both faced as warriors and leaders of their respective armies, and also the constant fear of death they live in. Similarly, Achilles weeps for his father, who was in many ways similar to Priam in his honor and who has just lost his son – much like how his father will soon experience as well if fate follows through. Thus Achilles weeps for his father and Priam simultaneously, just as Priam does for Hector and Achilles.


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