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I think that a case can be made for several characters, but I think Hector has got to be the central hero of the epic. Hector is the most noble of all of the characters, and arguably suffers the most in the epic poem. The fact that Hector is the only one who views war in its most honest of contexts, and enters into it with trepidation and recognition of the costs makes him someone that Homer admires and loves. At the same time, Hector represents the unenviable task of being poised between equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action. Hector is forced to balance out the love of country and honor with his love of family. Hector's arete and skill are both needed by the Trojans. Yet, at the same time, he wishes to be with his wife and child. When he must face Achilles and the prospect of certain death, he looks at both, embodying this collision between equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action. This pain makes him the central character, demonstrating the pain intrinsic to human consciousness.
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