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Simone Weil, a French writer, explores the depth and motive of why and how we do the things we do. In this critical review, Weil elucidates the role of force in the Iliad. It is exceptionally difficult to put into words the meaning that Weil gives force. When she defines it, she states, “it is that x that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing” (331). When I first read this, I did not comprehend what she meant by it. As Weil refers to force, she uses in the context of war and the taking of lives in the Iliad. This force takes away all natural abilities.
Weil explains how all living things respond to stimuli. The muscles in our body have reactions to things that take place in our environment. The force that she is trying to define is one that takes away this ability to respond. In war, a soldier must look past the pain that he is causing in taking another human being’s life. Weil suggests that this is as if life is being removed from the body of this soldier, resulting in a breathing corpse. Remorse becomes an overlooked emotion and all sensation vanishes. Does this not constitute a corpse, when all ability to respond to what is going on around him has departed; therefore taking away the very factor that defines a living object?
When examining force by means of killing others, this force does not only have an effect on the victim, but also on the conqueror. “Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates” (332). Weil goes on to say that force is not really a retainable thing. All persons, weak and strong, have to at one point in their life relinquish control to force. No one is exempt. She points to Achilles as an example. When he is killing Hector, he is holding the force against Hector to take his life. On the other hand, when Agamemnon purposely degrades Achilles by taking his war prize, Achilles goes to be alone and weep in his humiliation. A force knocks him down as he knocked his opponent Hector down. To show the cycle, we find Agamemnon weeping just a few days later as a result of a force.
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Weil points out that the Iliad forms a principle that is later used in the Gospels. “Area is just, and kills those who kill” (333). Here we find the decree that, whoever puts a person to death, shall also be put to death, the same rule used when referring to force.
In conclusion, one can see that the force that turns a man into a thing is the key in a battle. “The wantonness of the conqueror that knows no respect for any creature or thing that is at its mercy or is imagine to be so, the despair of the soldier that drives him on to destruction, the obliteration of the slave of the conquered man, the wholesale slaughter- all of these elements combine in the Iliad to make a picture of uniform horror, of which force is the sole hero” (334).