Textbook Leftovers

War Will Make Corpses of Us All

Posted on: April 4, 2011

Book Four of the Iliad begins in a strange way. Two heroes, one from each side of the battle, meet in the no-man’s-land. They begin to taunt each other and it really begins to feel like a WWE match complete with ceiling-microphones. Each of the heroes ties his own heritage to legend, telling great tall tales about his forefathers. They end their verbal battle by acknowledging each other as friends and trading armor as a token of friendship (except one of them totally robs the other).

After that one-off scene, the Hero appears. Hector, Prince of Troy, enters the city. He asks his mother to beg Athena for mercy, and goes to find his brother Paris and tear him a new one. At this point, Hector is on the Angry List. Hector says, several times, that he literally wants Paris to die, and thinks the world would be better off without him. He is really mad at his fool brother and I doubt that anybody blames him. Paris is a wimpy little pretty-boy, hiding in his room, even though this war is entirely his fault (well played by Orlando Bloom, I have to say). Paris waffles on about something and says he’ll come out to battle. Helen tells Hector that she regrets ever being born since she ended up with that loser, and Hector leaves.

Troy is, of course, a manocentric manocracy, but it’s been nice to see some women here. Hecuba (the Queen) doesn’t seem to have much to say for herself, but Homer does describe the womens’ sacrifices to Athena (who denies their prayers) instead of just summarizing. Helen is portrayed as a rather contemptible person, but not totally unsalvageable, and definitely worth better than the loser Paris.

Now we meet the female hero (in my opinion anyway). Andromache, Hector’s wife, is (thus far, anyway) the only woman who seems to have her own identity. We spend a great deal of time listening in on their heartfelt discussion, and she must have been the Ideal Woman, because she’s given a lot of “screen time.” She has emotions! She has thoughts and desires! She disagrees with her husband and he doesn’t beat her for it! In summary, Andromache, despite being desperately depressed (and who could blame her), is the heroine and the only whole woman in this entire epic. (Full disclosure: I’m a military wife and probably biased on this point.) Hector is certain that Troy will fall (although he later tries to be optimistic), and wants to die defending it so that he doesn’t have to see his wife be enslaved. Thanks a lot, Hector, that was very chivalrous. They have a Happy Family Kodak Moment, and Hector heads back out to war (what, no sex?).

To everyone’s surprise, Paris actually does come out to the battlefield and the book ends on this triumphant note. Books 5 through 7 are summarized, and a small excerpt of Book Eight informs us that the Trojans have rallied under the Sons of Priam (and without Achilles fighting for Greece).

I’d like to include more editorial sort of content, but there really doesn’t seem to be much to say… Come back next time for more episodes of Deadliest Warrior!

[Disclaimer: Deadliest Warrior is a show on Spike and I don’t own it.]

2 Responses to "War Will Make Corpses of Us All"

Your narration on this is so much more amusing and informative than the classes I took on the subject. Love it!

Thanks! I had a bit of fun writing this, and I think I’m gonna go in this direction more. I’m still nailing down the “voice” I want to have, as well as striking a balance between summary and opinion. Glad to hear that I’m in the right neighborhood!

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