What relationship between two other characters from a different novel (preferably one that does not involve mythology or anything like that of The Iliad) is similar to the relationship Paris and...

What relationship between two other characters from a different novel (preferably one that does not involve mythology or anything like that of The Iliad) is similar to the relationship Paris and Helen have in the third book of The Iliad?

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

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The relationship that Helen and Paris share in the third book reflects a condition of alienation.  While conventional wisdom would suggest that Helen would be zealous in support of Paris who is out to defend her from Menelaos, Homer's genius is to show the hollowness within the supposed archetype of beauty.  The face that would "launch a thousand ships" turns out to be quite empty in terms of loyalty.  The sense of honor that might be easily associated with it is absent.  As a result, Homer depicts a relationship that is far from secure and solid in its foundation. It is in stark contrast to the relationship shared by Hector and Andromache, where emotional commitment is evident even in the face of painful and agonizing duty.  The relationship that Paris and Helen share is one filled with alienation and emotional distance.

Hector constructs the cowardice of Paris matched by the emotional flightiness of Helen.  Helen's lack of emotional connection can be seen in the moment when Paris is off to confront Menelaos:

Thus spoke the goddess, and Helen's heart yearned after her former husband, her city, and her parents. She threw a white mantle over her head, and hurried from her room, weeping as she went, not alone, but attended by two of her handmaids, Aethrae, daughter of Pittheus, and Clymene. And straightway they were at the Scean Gates.

Helen is shown to be as elusive as beauty itself.  It cannot be possessed, but merely appreciated from a distance.  The fact that Helen's heart is not emotionally connected to Paris is evident in Book III.  It is not surprising that Helen is seen as one who brings destruction and suffering with her, reflective of a relationship that is empty, at best:  “Small wonder that Trojans and Achaeans should endure so much and so long, for the sake of a woman so marvellously and divinely lovely. Still, fair though she be, let them take her and go, or she will breed sorrow for us and for our children after us.”  The ending to the book in which Helen challenges the masculinity of Paris only to lie down next to him is one where there is not emotional connection.  Rather, it is one of private alienation, a setting where true emotional connection is not evident.

This same archetype of external beauty not reflective of emotional connection is seen in the relationship that Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan share in The Great Gatsby.  While the setting of both vastly differs, the same lack of emotional connection is seen.  Daisy cannot bring herself to stand by and stand up for Gatsby.  Her "careless" nature is shown in how she cannot pledge her loyalty to Gatsby when she is forced to make a decision between he and Tom. Like Helen, Daisy brings suffering with her.  This is seen in how she lets Gatsby accept blame for her mistake in driving the car that killed Myrtle, something for which he must pay the ultimate price.  Daisy's forlorn emotional state is evident in how she sits across from Tom, "with a plate of cold fried chicken between them, and two bottles of ale."  There is no happiness evident.  Rather, there is an impression of how both are "conspiring together."  It is here in which one sees the same level of emotional distance between two people supposedly in love.  Daisy's lack of emotional connection to Gatsby is similar to how Helen lacks an emotional bond to Paris.  In both settings, external beauty is not enough to sustain profound sentiment for people supposedly in love.

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