Ransom Imagery

The cart

The center of the vision Priam receives from the gods is the cart, and the cart becomes a way of signaling the humility with which Priam approaches Achilles. The image of the simple cart shows that Priam is not afraid to humble himself and relate to Achilles as just a man and a father. It also makes the exchange of treasure and the body of a prince much more dramatic: the image of both immense wealth and Hector's body in the cart is striking, because a simple cart isn't the vehicle that normally would be used for either of those things.

Hector's body

Hector's body, or more specifically, Achilles' mistreatment of Hector's body, is probably the strongest image of the entire book. Malouf paints a vivid picture of Hector's body being dragged behind the chariot, and one of the most unsettling parts of this text is how Hector's face always returns to how it was when he died during the night, no matter how mangled it gets during the day.

The sea and the earth

Achilles is described as being caught between the sea, which is associated with his mother, and the earth, which he associates with his father. Beyond this, though, the contrast between the sea and the earth represents a contrast between the eternal nature of the ocean and Achilles' immortal mother, on the one hand, and the changeable, mortal nature of the earth and Achilles' human father, on the other. Achilles' being forced to identify with the earth speaks to the fact that, like his father, he is mortal and will, therefore, return to the earth when he dies.

The river

The river acts as a separation between the territory of the Trojans and the territory occupied by the Greeks, but it also serves as the place where Priam takes off the mantle of being a king and becomes a humble man. Crossing over to the Greek side of the river, Priam becomes just a man, and crossing back over to Troy, he assumes kingship again.