Achilles as Sympathetic Hero and Egotistical Bully in The Iliad

Achilles, the swift, godlike warrior of Greek lore, is among the most complex of Homer's epic characters. Achilles and his ill-fated tendon figure prominently in the Western archetypal notion of a tragic hero; however, the application of the term "hero" to the Achaean fighter is disputable. Homer creates in Achilles a character that challenges the audience to grapple with both positive and negative aspects of his personality. From the very first to the very last books of The Iliad, Achilles says and does things that can be interpreted in different ways depending on one's overall view of his character. This ambiguity, while frustrating, seems to have been intentionally included by Homer in order to more forcefully engage the audience's thoughts on themes such as honor, righteousness, and mortality that are at the core of the poem. Achilles, because he is left open to so much interpretation, emerges as a character representative of a broad range of human experience.

The Iliad begins, in true Homeric fashion, in medias res: specifically, in the middle of Achilles' rage. Because of this rapid introduction, the reader or audiencemember forms an immediate opinion of Achilles. Such first reactions are crucial;...

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