Saskia R explores interpretations of Achilles

Achilles is one of the most well-known Epic heroes as the son of a goddess and the greatest fighter in the Trojan War, his battle prowess has become legend. However, throughout many depictions of the character’s life, such as Homer’s The Iliad and Madeleine Miller’s The Song of Achilles, other characteristics are prominent in Achilles, his anger being the most prominent. Most epics have been known to emphasise the emotions of characters to make them more dramatic and The Iliad is no different, as the anger of Achilles and the repercussions of his withdrawal from the Achaean army are crucial to the development of the story. However, both Homer and Miller indicate that it is the blemish of his honour which causes Achilles to isolate himself from the war. Interestingly, while his actions are justifiable when considering him as a Greek hero, it still remains that the character of Achilles is interpreted by many readers as selfish and hyperbolic. He is insinuated as more selfish in The Iliad, as the epic, unlike Miller’s novel, does not present its characters in a natural, mortal light, but rather in a hyperbolic way. This therefore means that a modern reader is unable to empathise as much as a contemporary reader, due to the change in society’s idea of a hero. Miller succeeds in making the actions of Achilles seem more humane, as she portrays him from a young age which allows the reader to emotionally develop with the character and therefore understand his anger at his unfair treatment. The depiction of Achilles in Miller’s The Song of Achilles as both demi-god and human, rather than Homer’s portrayal of him predominantly as a hero, makes the character seem in some ways more heroic as he overcomes the restrictions of a mortal.

By Saskia Reed


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