In the Illiad, Book 24, what impact does Homer intend to convey through Achilles' moral change have on the message of the work?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Homer is seeking to bring out how human beings, unlike the Gods, can change in a worthwhile and meaningful manner.  Achilles' evolution is a reminder that the horrors of war can be curtailed as human beings are capable of change.  As an avenging force that sought nothing more than the desecration of Hector, to see Achilles brought to tears is a reminder of the powerful capacity of human beings to foster change within themselves and in their world.  While human beings are always subject to the conditions of mortality, Homer conveys the idea that the ability to change and appreciate new points of view is something that makes human beings different than the vision of the divine that is offered in the work.  At the same time, I would suggest that Homer is conveying the basic premise of the life spirit or force that runs through all beings.  Homer compels Achillles to recognize this himself in the moment that closes the work.  In conveying this message of redemption in a setting where there is so in way of condemnation, there is a statement about the slaughter and murder that is a part of war, something that Homer was ahead of most in realizing.  This is not the Classical exercise of pure glory where only the victors emerge.  Rather, Homer humanizes the experience, bringing out the savage condition of it.  In making Achilles, one who represented this savage element the most, more of a human figure, Homer conveys this message in a powerfully compelling manner. In the moment of shared weeping, Homer conveys that Achilles' recognition is what we all must understand when confronting the reality of war in that there are no victors and the only supreme force is that of painful death.  Homer's conveying Achilles' moral change is a reminder that the best elements of the tragic condition brought out in literature is the idea of spiritual evolution.

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