The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Summary

The Song of Achilles is a 2011 historical-fiction novel written by American novelist Madeline Miller. It is the author’s first book, and it tells the tragic love story between the Greek hero Achilles and his lover Patroclus. As the relationship between the two princes is one of the most interesting aspects of the stories associated with the Trojan War, Miller also incorporates elements and events that happened during that time, taking inspiration from Homer’s Iliad.

Set in Greece, the story focuses on the love affair between Achilles and Patroclus. Achilles is a demigod who excels in everything and is strong, honorable, righteous, and handsome. He can be a bit arrogant and stubborn at times, but he is also naive, innocent, and sometimes insecure. Unlike him, Patroclus is a gentle, kind, caring, and soft-hearted person who can be incredibly wise and intelligent. His father, however, thinks that he is weak and powerless, and his mother often neglects him due to her inability to connect with people.

One day, he accidentally kills a boy, and doesn’t do anything to conceal his crime. In fact, he goes and tells his parents what he did, deeply regretting his actions. However, his father, angry that Patroclus didn’t cover up the murder, tells him that he will never be worthy enough to become king and exiles him. His mother agrees with her husband, and thus Patroclus leaves his home.

He soon joins the court of King Peleus, who is Achilles's father. Unlike Patroclus’s father, King Peleus loves his son unconditionally. He is proud of him, and often boasts about Achilles's strength and intelligence. Achilles’s mother—Thetis, the Goddess of Justice—teaches her son how to be a good archer and warrior, and advises him to be merciless and ruthless.

When Achilles and Patroclus meet and become close friends, Thetis tells Achilles that love is meaningless and that he should be less emotional. Achilles, on the other hand, slowly begins to fall in love with Patroclus, and tries to convince his parents that love is the most powerful emotion: one that can even beat death.

(The entire section is 540 words.)