How can you explain Achilles character in accordance with the Illiad?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Achilles is renowned as the demi-god character who is beautiful and brave. However, in spite of his god-like status, he seems to spend his time acting more as a child than a man. He withdraws from battle over a disagreement with the leader of the Greek forces, Agamemnon, and then only is tempted back to fight when Hector kills his dear friend, Patroclus. The epic fight that he has with Hector is revealing in lots of ways as it presents us with a complex character who is consumed by revenge. After killing Hector, Achilles refuses to give up his body for proper burial and allows the Greek forces to mistreat it, and then, adding insult to injury, he attaches the corpse to the back of his chariot and drives back to Greek lines, with the noble head of Hector being dragged in the dust:

So he triumphed

and now he was bent on outrage, on shaming noble Hector.

Piercing the tendons ankle to heel behind both feet,

he knotted straps of rawhide through them both,

lashed them to his chariot, left the head to drag

and mounting the car, hoisting the famous arms aboard,

he whipped his team to a run and breakneck on they flew,

holding nothing back.

Thus, when we consider arete, a chief concept denoting honour, Achilles seems to gain arete through his desire to revenge Patroclus but at the same time he loses it through his defilement of Hector's body, making his presentation as a "hero" problematic at best.