I have chosen Achilles to write my paper on because his character is the central story line in the Iliad. Although it may seem that the main theme is about the totality and gruesomeness of when the poem is first read, this is not the main focus. The actual fighting and Trojan War could be compared to “Saving Private Ryan.” We get raw details of the war without missing any of the descriptive details. Achilles is the character I was most interested in because he was an extraordinary fighter, man, and hero. We see how Achilles matures from a bloodthirsty warrior in the beginning to a more reserved and thoughtful man by the end of the Iliad.
Achilles is a semi-god because his mom, Thetis, is a goddess and his father, Peleus, is a mortal. Achilles shows the greatest military skill of any Achaean and has the greatest fighting ability of all Trojan and Achaean warriors. He is considered to worth an entire army when fighting in a battle. In the beginning of the Iliad Achilles is known as a ruthless and unstoppable killing force. Anyone he could not send to the House of Death he would hold as captives on his ship. He did all of this killing and destruction for the glory.
When the Argives asked Achilles and his friend, Patroclus, to help them conquer Troy and get Helen back, Achilles agreed only because of the glory and fame he could achieve from it. Achilles had no reason to fight the Trojans because they had not wronged him, at least not yet. He joined the Argives because he felt this war would be the quickest way to gain glory. Achilles wanted to become famous. Achilles quickly became the Argives main fighting force. Agamemnon, the leader of the Argives, called him the most violent man alive.
When Agamemnon takes Briseis, his favorite prize, Achilles become angry. The reason Agamemnon took Briseis is because he had to give his own prize, Chryseis, back to her father. Until she was returned Apollo would wreak havoc on the Argives day and night. The taking of Briseis hurt Achilles pride. He was disgruntled because he had not way to gain his glory back. He could not retaliate and put up a good fight in front of his men. This scenario reminds me of the bully picking a little kid on the playground, while all the other children are watching.
Achilles decides to get even with Agamemnon for taking his prize so he prays to his mom to go to Zeus, the god of gods, and beg a favor. He wants his mom to ask Zeus to have the Trojans begin winning the war. At this point Achilles has stopped helping the Argives in their battle against Troy because he is mad at Agamemnon. Thetis warns Achilles that if he returns to the battle instead of going home he will die under Troy’s walls. Achilles has a big decision to make. One choice is he can change his attitude and start respecting life, which means he would go home. Achilles other choice is to ignore his mom and fight anyway. If he continues fighting he would die a famous and almost godly warrior.
While Achilles is still deciding what to do Zeus sends Patroclus, Achilles best friend, back into battle where he dies at the hand of Hector. Achilles is furious. He returns to battle in a fury of anger. Achilles does not return for glory this time. Instead, he returns because he valued his friend and wants to avenge his death. Achilles chases the Trojans back to the walls of Troy. There is chases down Hector and kills him. Then he displays his body in the most disgraceful fashion.
Zeus sends King Priam. Priam is Hector’s dad and he has come to retrieve his son’s body. He wants to give his son a proper burial. Achilles does not want to return the body at first, but Priam is able to change his mind. Priam convinces Achilles what the effect of killing has. He shows him the pain, suffering, and destruction that it causes people. The King even reveals his pain at Hector’s death to Achilles. Achilles agrees to return the body. Achilles realizes that there are aftereffects from death long after the death. He discovers that life is valuable and should not be tossed aside for personal gain. Achilles’ attitude does not take a 180? turn, but he is able to realize what happens when he kills someone. This may help to make him a more reserved and thoughtful person.