The Iliad Exam Part 3
February 16, 2014
The Iliad has survived for thousands of years not simply because it is an entertaining story, but because it transcends cultures and expresses universal themes of human existence. Themes are the guiding ideas of a work of art: the central message or fundamental essence about the human condition, which is symbolically portrayed in a given text. Select one theme from the Iliad and write an argumentative and interpretive essay, which examines specifically how that particular theme is relevant to contemporary society without succumbing to moralistic diatribes or gross anachronisms.
Fame and Immortality
For thousands of years The Iliad written by Homer has impacted every culture and every generation it has been known to. The Iliad is an intense, detailed story of the Trojan War containing many basic, relatable themes that can be clearly interpreted by any group of people. Still today, the themes in The Iliad hold true. Homer’s audiences are constantly reminded of the inevitable mortality of the warriors described in the story. Despite this knowledge, the warriors continue to strive towards, and give everything up for, the idea of immortality; fully knowing that it would solely be just their reputation and kleos that lived on through the generations. Readers in our generation can see this today when people strive to become famous. Often times people are willing to trade in and forget everything in their old life for a life in the spot light.
Warfare is the only way the audience sees it possible to gain honor, glorification and kleos in The Iliad. If a male chooses against fighting and war he is often times humiliated, shunned, considered worthless or sometimes killed. If someone with great talent walks away from a dream because they do not want the fame and they baggage that it carries they will be looked at as stupid and foolish. In The Iliad, Paris showed this in a duel for a woman named Helen. Paris initiated the fight with Helen’s husband, Menelaus and then nervously “[backed away] into his friendly ranks, cringed from death/ as one who trips on a snake in a hilltop hollow/ recoils, suddenly, trembling grips his knees/ and pallor takes his cheeks and back he shrinks. / So he dissolved again in the proud Trojan lines/ . . . at one glance/ Hector raked his brother with insults, stinging taunts:/ "Paris, appalling Paris! Our prince of beauty mad/ for women, you lure them all to ruin! / Would to god you'd never been born, died unwed. / That's all I'd ask. Better that way by far” (Book III, Homer). After hearing that, Paris decided to take on Menelaus. Again he was humiliated when the goddess Aphrodite had to spare him from…