Epic Of A Local Hero By Amir Gilan Essay

Epic Of A Local Hero By Amir Gilan Essay

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In his “Epic and History in Hittite Anatolia: In Search of a Local Hero,” Amir Gilan cites Richard Martin’s argument, that while “epic cannot be pinned down to a specific textual or performance style,” it is nevertheless “in almost every situation…intricately interwoven with myths, folktales, wisdom-proverbs and praise poety” (51). There are thus certain mythic traits that such epics necessarily share. Consider Gilan’s example of the epic hero. Quoting Irad Malkin, he asserts that “’[t]he return of Odysseus…must have been on the minds of historical Greeks when they were sailing beyond Ithaca.’ In Mesopotamia, large parts of the populace have been acquainted with the figure of Gilgamesh and venerated him as king in the Netherworld” (52). This way, looking for what makes a Hittite epic, Gilan himself proposes that the “way to approach the question of what the Hittites themselves considered being of ‘epic’ (greater than life) dimension—embodying their history, identity and aspirations—is to search for a Hittite hero.” Greek, Mesopotamian, and Hittite epic consequently all share a heroic figure inextricably tied to his homeland. If Absalom, Absalom! is truly the epic of the American South, therefore, an undeniably Southern hero must form a central part of the text. Of course, such a hero should not be difficult to find: as Clauser notes, the American Civil War “took place in an age when official propaganda machines were in their infancy. People still had heroes and admired them spontaneously without much irony” (176). Let us then focus on the role of heroic Southern figures in the novel by considering Thomas Sutpen, and Quentin Compson. As we shall see, Absalom, Absalom! presents us not with a single heroic figure, but rather two unde...


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...aborate on these secondary investigations fully, we have nevertheless determined that these lesser characters, and Absalom, Absalom! itself, all revolve around the two heroic figures: Sutpen and Quentin. Both retain hero status for two interdependent reasons. Firstly, each is fundamental to the epic novel itself. Sutpen forms the diegetic nucleus around which Quentin first pieces together and subsequently disseminates the heroic plot. Secondly, they share with the American South Gilan’s criteria requisite to the epic hero—“history, indentity, and ambitions”—and are subsequently unmistakable Southern sons. As such, they neatly support our larger hypothesis that the novel is itself a Southern epic—they each “painfully question[]” both “the founding of the American South” and the fragile history of the defeated nation, still unresolved by the time of Faulkner’s writing.

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