What is the role of fate in Homer's Iliad and Christa Wolf's novel Cassandra, especially with respect to Hektor? How does fate affect the plot, the characters, the overall narrative? Is fate a...

What is the role of fate in Homer's Iliad and Christa Wolf's novel Cassandra, especially with respect to Hektor? How does fate affect the plot, the characters, the overall narrative? Is fate a cosmic force the characters cannot control, or do they control their own destinies? 

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Both Homer's Iliad and Christa Wolf's novel Cassandra show that there is a direct relationship between fate and choice. Fate does not act based only on itself; fate is guided by the choices we make. While there are those who are victims of fate and can do nothing to prevent their fate, their fate was determined by poor choices others make.

Wolf particularly uses the novel Cassandra to show women's unfortunate fate of being oppressed by men due to men's decision that women are merely tools to use at their disposal. Women don't make the choice to be oppressed, and no choice they make can truly prevent oppression; they simply are oppressed, which we can say is due to fate. However, that fate is also directed by the choices of men and would not exist without the choices of men. The oppression of women is portrayed in many events throughout the novel. For example, it's portrayed in the fact that Cassandra's father Priam, King of Troy, wanted Cassandra to participate in a plot in which her younger sister Polyxena would be used to seduce Achilles, which would put Achilles in a vulnerable enough position that Priam could then wound Achilles's vulnerable heel. However, Cassandra refused to help and opposed men using women for their own gains. We particularly see Cassandra reflecting on just how much her sister had been used by men when she says, "It was agreed that that evening Polyxena would show herself to her future owner on the wall beside the Scaean Gate" (p. 109). In using the term "owner," Cassandra is showing just how much women are oppressed by being treated like material possessions. Cassandra herself is also used for gain when Agamemnon brings her home to Greece as a war prize, which places her in a position to be murdered by his ragingly jealous wife Clytemnestra. Since neither Cassandra nor women like her sister could do anything to prevent their oppression, it can be said the novel is showing that women are fated to be oppressed due to men's choices.

Similarly, in Homer's Iliad, Hektor, brother of Paris and the valiant warrior who leads the Trojans in battle, is cruelly fated to die at the hands of Achilles. Though he tries to do everything he can to protect himself and the Trojans, including having his mother gather all of the women of Troy to sacrifice to the goddess Athene, in the end, there is nothing he personally can do to prevent himself from dying at the hands of Achilles. However, just as the fate of women is determined by the bad choices of men, Hektor's fate is likewise determined by the bad choice of his brother Paris, particularly the choice to steal Helen from King Menelaus of Sparta. Hence, in both books, there is an interplay between choices and fate; choice leads to fate. 

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