Hector and Achilles as Classic Heroes of Homer's Iliad
Literary heroes have been important to stories and poems throughout history. Each author develops his hero through a unique writing style, combining conscious use of detail, diction, tone and other narrative techniques to outline a hero's personality. Homer, in his epic poem The Iliad, develops two classic heroes who are distinctly different at first glance, but upon closer inspection are very similar in terms of their basic characteristics. Hector and Achilles both are courageous soldiers, relatively honorable men, and respected leaders, but they also both have human failings that eventually lead to tragedy. In Homer's lyrical verses and in his use of detail, diction, meter and imagery, he paints his own portrait of a classic hero through the brave deeds as well as the human flaws of Hector and Achilles that eventually lead to the downfall of proud and powerful Hector.
The first characteristic that is assigned to a classic hero by Homer is the fact that they are strong and brave, and may even have god-like qualities. To emphasize this, Homer deliberately and repeatedly adds adjectives that praise the two heroes before their names almost every time he refers to them. While Achilles is usually depicted as swift and godlike, Homer portrays Hector as bright, dazzling and dignified. Homer uses phrases like, "...noble bright-helmeted Hector..."(398;Book 22), "...man-killing Hector..." (149;Book 6), and "Resplendent Hector..."(146;Book 6) to describe the Trojan soldier, while he praises Hector's Greek opponent with such expressions as "Achilles, peer of the plume-waving war god..."(145;Book 22) and "...Achilles, swift ...
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...nd in circles behind his chariot every day until the gods intervene. Although Achilles may be an otherwise honorable man, this great disrespect for Hector's body is a major flaw in the hero, and Homer clearly emphasizes this through the details he includes about Achilles' treatment of the corpse.
In The Iliad, two of the main characters, Hector and Achilles, share qualities that make them heroes based on the ideas of the author, Homer, and Homer illustrates these qualities through his use of diction, detail, meter and imagery. They both are strong, brave, respected and honorable, but they both also have major human flaws that eventually lead to tragedy; Achilles is godlike but revengeful, and Hector noble but proud. They may be flawed, but these characteristics make them both classic literary heroes of the epic poem The Iliad.
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