What are the archetypes seen in both the Iliad and Odyssey?

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

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One shared archetype in both works is the archetype of "the task."  In this particular archetype, there is a task confronting the protagonist or individuals in a work.  The task is massive, and not for the faint of heart and strength.  The ability to surmise the immensity of the task and eventually find success in their undertaking of it is an archetype found in both works.  Achilles envisions this archetype in the Iliad.  He is able to see his participation in the Trojan War as a task of immensity. It is a task fitting for a warrior of his stature, and while death is an understood condition of his participation in the war, the task is what he sees as worthy of his undertaking.  For Odysseus, the task is thrust upon him.  Getting home is a task that is something that can only be undertaken with someone of his guile, intelligence, and strength. The task of returning home to Ithaca and Achilles' fighting in the Trojan War is a shared archetype in both works.

Another really interesting archetype that is seen in both works is the suffering woman.  Once again linked to Achilles and Odysseus, Thetis, Achilles' mother, and Penelope, Odysseus' wife, embody the archetype of the suffering woman.  They are left with the consequences of the men they love having chosen to go off to battle. Part of the suffering woman archetype is a tacit acceptance of the social conditions that force the pain of separation and knowing that a man they love is about to face peril where death might be a reality. Both the mother Thetis and the wife Penelope accept this condition of their being.  Yet, they suffer in the absence of the men they sent off to battle.  Thetis understands that she must see her son go off to embody his name, even though she tries to avert it.  She suffers in seeing him go, knowing that she will never see him again.  Penelope suffers as she remains ever faithful to a husband that she hopes she will see again, but recognizes that she might not.  The suffering woman archetype is seen in both mother and wife.

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