In Homer's Iliad, what is the narrator's point of view?

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The narrator of Homer's Illiad speaks from a third-person omniscient point of view. Specifically, the narrator is the poet himself. Homer appears to know the gist of the historical events that he means to depict, but he calls out to a muse to give him the details he needs...

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The narrator of Homer's Illiad speaks from a third-person omniscient point of view. Specifically, the narrator is the poet himself. Homer appears to know the gist of the historical events that he means to depict, but he calls out to a muse to give him the details he needs to really tell the story. The muse, of course, is connected with the gods and so has omniscient understanding; thus, she also the ability to tell Homer the details that he's searching for so that he may write them and pass them down in the form of The Illiad. This omniscience does extend to the thoughts of characters, although the poem deals directly with the character's actions more so than with their thoughts or emotions.

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The Iliad's narrator is third-person, but interestingly, he isn't a direct witness to the action he describes. He is telling a story from the past—in a sense, his epic is a piece of historical fiction. The narrator is able to tell the story by invoking his muse to inspire him, and much of the characterization is conveyed through the actions and words, not the interior thoughts, of his characters.

Although Homer was Greek, his narrator is non-partisan, trying and succeeding in giving an even-handed version of events. When the Greeks are blameworthy, they get blamed. Likewise, one of the most touching scenes in the poem involves the Trojan Hector saying goodbye to his wife and young child as he leaves for battle—poignantly, Andromache, his wife, will be enslaved when the Trojans lose the war, and his little son will be killed.

While the narrator shows the necessity of war and celebrates the heroism of the warriors (when they exhibit it), he is also even-handed in revealing the high cost of the conflict as both sides grieve the friends and find people lost in the seemingly endless battling. Through a long description of the shield of Achilles, the narrator also gives us insight into the peacetime activities of planting, harvesting, worshipping, and dancing that the men are fighting to preserve.

Our narrator attempts to give us a view of an entire world, peaceful and bloody, with soldiers who can be both heroic and childish. The epic includes the gods in the action, showing them close at hand, something that can sometimes be startling to modern readers.

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The third-person omniscient point of view allows Homer to provide us with a much broader perspective on events. Homer doesn't want to take sides; yes, much of the action takes place among the Achaeans, but that doesn't meant that the narrative is in any way partial towards them. No one observing Achilles's childish sulks and temper tantrums could reasonably conclude that Homer was writing Achaean propaganda.

Instead, Homer stands back and allows the action to speak for itself. The gods may intervene with quite bewildering regularity, but Homer most assuredly does not. His overriding purpose is to tell a story, an epic tale of blood and battle in which the horrors of war are delineated in unerring detail. And that can only really be done from a third-person omniscient standpoint, the one that Homer adopts with such remarkable skill and virtuosity.

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The narration of the Iliad takes place in the third-person omniscient, which means the narrator is not within the story but is looking at it as an objective outsider. Some have speculated that the narrator is supposed to be a stand-in for Homer himself, which is probably correct, as throughout the Iliad readers are given small glimpses into the knowledge given to the narrator by the muse. Instead of focusing on the inner thoughts of specific characters, the narrator darts between the actions of each character, mortal or divine, and tells the reader of what is going on with both the Trojans and the Achaeans. So, the narrator is not a character within the events described in the narrative, but someone who has come into knowledge of the events and the characters involved after they occurred. 

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