David Malouf explores the emotional and physical struggle a hero must face before attaining glory. Evaluate this statement. In your response discuss how two characters are represented as heroic through their quest. Heroism is a valued concept that has transcended through time and has been the subject of a great deal of literature. David Malouf’s appropriation of Homers epic The Iliad explores this notion of heroism through the characterization of King Priam, directly battling the contextual hero of the time, Achilles.
Through descriptive language and stylistic conventions, Malouf showcases that it is the emotional and physical struggle that a man must face to ultimately attain glory, thus becoming a hero. This statement is epitomized through the contrasting protagonists Priam and Achilles, who are both sequentially transformed through their metaphysical journey. Malouf has deliberately structured his text in separate books, to take the readers on a journey, mapping their path to glory whilst teaching us the importance of the ordinary hero.
Classically, a hero demonstrates qualities of endurance, bravery and physical prowess, epitomized by Achilles at the start of the novel. Malouf initially celebrates Achilles as a hero, being “blessed” by the Gods with supernatural abilities and a “brooding presence”, which intimidates the entire Trojan army. However, while Achilles’s training and apparent destiny is to attain glory and die “a hero’s death”, Malouf soon reveals his dissatisfaction and emotional struggle with his current disposition.
In the context of Patroclus’s death and loss of family Achilles’s thumos overwhelms him, this grief accentuated through the repetition of “wept”. His killing of Hector sets his spirit “off on its own downward path” a metaphor portraying the similar downward path he experiences at this part of his journey. This search for salvation leads him to drag the body of Hector around the walls of Troy, juxtaposing his former honour, “He is their leader, but he breaks daily every rule they have been taught to live by”.
Malouf manifests the struggle of Achilles and portrays his negative spiritual journey through the exploration of dark imagery, articulating upon his soul’s “corruption”, surrender to a “darker agency” and being caught in a metaphorical “clogging grey web”. Although Achilles can be considered a hero, these human traits highlight his flaws leading to a metaphysical struggle within himself, which gives Malouf scope to further develop his journey of self-discovery. This journey of struggle takes him from a grief stricken avenger to compassionate father/man/hero.
Achilles is a lost hero at the end of book 1“waiting for the break”, waiting for “something” to “Break the spell” that is on him. Within Book 4 Malouf delivers Achilles’s salvation in the form of King Priam. It is here Priam implements a metaphysical journey upon Achilles, forcing him to look inward from the fatherly figures point of view, his regret captured through the metaphor “a great wave of sadness” passed by. Malouf depicts Achilles’s transformation through the imagery of “the ice cracks”, conveying the mutual understanding shared, as Achilles accepts Hector’s “honorable death” for the first time.
Achilles learns a compassion for the enemy, clearing his “heart of the smoky poison” and continuing the water motif with “a cleansing emotion…flooded through” leaving behind his guilt and struggle. Malouf epitomizes the transformation through describing Achilles with a “lightness” which is in direct juxtaposition of the earlier dark imagery. It is clear that Achilles has been forever enlightened by Priam’s appeal, finding a “balance” between his conflicting dual nature.
Malouf ends this quest as Achilles regains his warrior status and developed the absent qualities of integrity, compassion and honour “in the very breath of the gods, of the true Achilles, the one he has come all this way to find”. This quote further integrates the epic convention of the god’s intervention, undermining Iris’s initial “concept of chance” developing the theme of destiny. Through changing the perspective of the book from Achilles to Priam, Malouf is able to encapsulate the quest and transformation from king to man.
Hector’s death acts as a catalyst, sparking the old king to leave his golden cage. In this claustrophobic setting, Priam instinctively feels denied true companionship with his fellow man. This is amplified through the shallowness of the relationship he and his son shared, which is felt all the more acutely in the context of Hector’s death. Priam, through an epiphany brought upon by the gods decides to break free, envisioning “himself … dressed in a plain white robe without ornament” into Archilles camp to ransom the and
bring home the body of his son. This vision has elements of the heroic, in risking his life, and undertaking what has “never been done before” in the annals of Troy. When convincing his family of the proposition to ransom Hector, Priam’s argument is reinforced through the repetition of “I believe”. It is Priam’s journey that transforms his life from the artificial “kingly sphere” to one attaining real feelings and emotion. Books 2 and 3 change the perspective from Achilles to Priam, where Malouf encapsulates Priam’s quest from king to man.
Hector’s death acts as a catalyst, sparking Priam to transform from his passive and “symbolic” role of king to a man feeling “bold” and “defiant”. Tiring of his life of isolation, Priam’s epiphany of “himself … dressed in a plain white robe without ornament” heading into Archilles camp to ransom the body of his son is heroic. It challenges all convention, contains high ideals and involves risk of life, a quest of glory. Priam must first struggle with his wife, then his children and councilors “you expect that jackal… to be moved by this touching pantomine? ” rhetorical questioning emphasizing yet again the constraints of his kingly realm.
The introduction of Somax as the metaphor of the ordinary man allows Priam to reconnect with basic values such as “interest” and “curiosity”. This relationship is an essential part of Priam’s journey, as he gains an understanding of the “outside world” developing into a real man and father. Malouf uses simile and irony when comparing Priam to a “toddler” as he is the king yet Somax is the adult in the relationship. By making Priam the child, Malouf demon`strates how far Priam must travel in his journey of self-discovery. Within book 4 the climax of Priam’s journey takes place, as he confronts the murderer of his son.
From the very moment he enters the Greek camp the gods clearly support Priam, as the portal gate was moved by some “invisible agency”. This epic convention is further developed by Malouf as Priam’s sudden ability to speak well becomes a strength “Would your father…not do the same for you? ” appealing to Achilles’s humanity through rhetorical questioning. Here Priam’s physical and emotional strength shines through, as the final product of his heroic quest has been developed “I have come to you…man to man…for the body of my son” epitomizing his newfound endurance, bravery and compassion.
Through the mutual bond of fatherhood the reader observes Priam’s transformation from a “child” to a man able to leave the great Achilles begging “No more! Please! ” Malouf takes Priam on an emotional and physical struggle, who ultimately attains glory through reducing himself into the ordinary man “the I is different…I come as a man of sorrow… but also as a hero of a deed that… was never attempted. ” that he himself can recognize through successfully ransoming the body of his son Hector. Priam exemplifies humility when meeting Achilles, using the strength from the gods to aid him on his noble pursuit.
Now Priam must struggle with not just his emotions: he must remain strong against the physical fear of losing his life. He makes his appeal and “closes his eyes. Now he thinks, now they will strike”. Here Priam’s physical and emotional strength shines through. He is an old man, he has traveled far, he faces death at the hands of the ultimate warrior. He has braved these physical challenges while keeping a cool nerve and winning Achilles over with his simple manly dignity. Q1 Hero heroic journey Heroic qualities, how they are highlighted Literary techniques Language in an evocative manner
Simple/Direct Shifts in point of view Clear images of characters Structure chronologically Malouf remains faithful to Homers Book 24 through allowing the gods to intervene in the affairs of human undermining the god Iris, showcasing that the concept of “chance” was Achilles could never have dreamt that the special something would come to him in the form of plainly dressed King Priam, Malouf is clearly faithful to Homers book 24, drawing upon similar epic conventions when delving into Priam’s quest of self-discovery, implementing the feeble old king to effectively challenge the depiction of heroes.
Malouf is clearly faithful to Homers book 24, drawing upon similar epic conventions when delving into Priam’s quest for glory, effectively challenging the depiction of heroes. The idea of glory is explored in depth in the novel Ransom. It is clear from the novel that the concept of “attaining glory” is subjective. Glory could be a high level of reknown peers, or in the case of Priam and Achilles achieving honour that they themselves can recognize.
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