How is Hector's character depicted in Homer's Iliad?
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Hector is a somewhat complex character. On the one hand, he is indisputably the finest warrior in the Trojan army, and he is noble and, for the most part, brave. He very nearly drives the Achaeans from their camp, and kills several great warriors, including Patroclus. On the other hand, he is also very human, and even refuses to fight the mighty Ajax until he is goaded into it by his men. He also makes several crucial mistakes, allowing the Achaeans, led by an enraged Achilles, to destroy his forces.
What sets Hector apart, however, is the extent to which the reader is allowed to see his family life. He is devoted to his family, including his father, King Priam, his wife Andromache and infant child Astyanax, and even his brother Paris, whose behavior led to the war in the first place. The scene in which Hector bids farewell to his family before leaving for what will be his final battle:
Nay—Hector—you who to me are father, mother, brother, and dear husband—have mercy upon me; stay here upon this wall; make not your child fatherless, and your wife a widow...And Hector answered, “Wife, I too have thought upon all this, but with what face should I look upon the Trojans, men or women, if I shirked battle like a coward? I cannot do so: I know nothing save to fight bravely in the forefront of the Trojan host and win renown alike for my father and myself.
Later he takes his young son, who cowers at the sight of his horsehair plume, and kisses him farewell. The glimpse that we gain into Hector's private life humanizes him to an extent not seen in any other character in the Iliad. He thus becomes one of its most sympathetic and noble characters.
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