Book 22- Summary, themes, motifs and symbols

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  • Created on: 21-05-15 12:37


As Achilleus is disabused by Apollo, and sets out running fast back to Troy, Hektor stays outside, in front of the Skaian gates. This fatal decision, like more major events in the Iliad, is doubly determined. Divine and human causation work in parallel: 'his cruel fate shackled Hektor to stay there outside', but it is also his own decision, prompted by shame at his costly refusal to take the Trojans back into the city for the previous night, and he thought that he has destroyed his people through his own folly.

Priam sees Achilleus speeding over the plain, glittering like a baneful star, and implores Hektor to come inside the city: beside him Hekabe, Hektor's mother, bares her breast in appeal to her son, but they cannot move him. The power of this heart-rending scene is increased by the contrast with the appeals to Achilleus in Book 9 - there his closest friends urge Achilleus to fight - and by anticipation of Priam's appeal to Achilleus in Book 24: Priam cannot move his own son, but he can move the man who killed him.

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Summary Continued

As Achillues comes on, Hektor's nerve breaks, and he runs. Achilleus pursues him three times round the walls of Troy, under the eyes of his parents and friends, past the landmarks of Troy and the reminders of peacetime, the two springs beside him 'the fine broad washing-troughs made of stone, where the Trojans' wives and their lovely daughters used to wash their bright clothes in earlier times, in peace, before the sone of Achaians came'. Achilleus is now 'swift-footed' in full earnest. Two images drawn from the events at funeral games prepare for the games in honour of Patroklos in Book 23, and make a grim point, intensified by the terse half-line 'and all the gods looked on'.

Zeus debated whether to save Hektor for the moment or let him be killed, as he had done with Sarpedon and Patroklos, a further link which places these three deaths in cummulative sequence. Zeus opens out his golden scales, as before in Book 8, and Hektor's pan sinks down into Hades. Apollo leaves Hektor, and Athene comes to Achilleus.

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Summary Continued

Athene tricks Hektor into fighting, by presenting herself as Deiphobos, Hektor's brother, come to give him aid. The duel begins, and Hektor realises that the gods have called him to his death, when 'Deiphobos' is no longer there to help him. He charges at Achilleus in a final quest for glory, and is killed by a spear-thrust through the throat. As he dies, he prophesies the circumstances of his killer's own death, as Patroklos has done when Hektor killed him.

Achilleus had refused to accept Hektor's plea that his body should be returned for burial, and he noe ties it by the ankles behind his chariot and drags it back to the ships. 'As Hektor was dragged behind, a cloud of dust arose from him, his dark hair streamed out round him, and all that once handsome head sunk in the dust: but now Zeus had given him to his enemies to defile him in his own native land'. This sullying of Hektor's head and hair answers in fully literal fact to the symbolic defilement of Achilleus' helmet when it is knocked from Patroklos' head in the prelude to his death.

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Summary Continued

The death and defilement of Hektor is witnessed by his parents, and the sound of their lamentation reaches Andromache where she sits at home engaged in her wifely duties and concerned that there should be hot water for Hektor's bath on his return from battle - 'poor child, she did not know that far away from any baths bright-eyed Athene had brought him down at the hands of Achilleus'. She rushes to the wall and faints at the sight of Hektor dragged lifeless behind Achilleus' horses. Her immediate lament with which the book ends, dwells on the cruel change that awaits Astyanax, now that he is fatherless. Much in this deeply moving scene is set in a conscious relation to the scene between Hektor and Andromache in Book 6, and realises the tragedy there foreshadowed.

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Motif of Armour

"Hitting in the centre if the son of Peleus' shield: then the spear rebounded far from the shield"

This shows the strength of Achilleus' shield and its grandeur reflects Achilleus' status.

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Motif of Burial

"I beseech you by your life and by your parents, do not let the dogs of the Achaian camp eat me by the ships"

This illustrates the importance of a proper burial in Greek society as Hektor uses his dying breath to request this.

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Theme of Glory of War

"he [Achilleus] has left me bereaved of many sons"

This glory means so much to Achilleus that he wants to carry on killing people and slaying cities, such as Troy, to gain more glory and better his reputation.

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Theme of Military Glory over Family Life

"it would be better for me to face Achilleus and either kill him and return home, or die a glorious death myself in front of my city"

Hektor would prefer to die in battle than to return inside the walls and be seen as a coward who "destroyed his people" by not fighting.

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Theme of Impermanence of Human Life

"So now vile death is close on me, not far now any longer, and there is no escape"

Hektor has realised that his death is inescapable. He knows that he is going to die and he is forced to accet the fact that he will lose everything, including his life, in the quest of kleos.

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Theme of Fate VS Freewill

"I am fated to misery"

This shows us that Priam is "fated to misery" because Hektor is fated to die at the hands of Achilleus.

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Theme of Intervention of the Immortals

"taking the form and tireless voice of Deiphobos. She came close and spoke winged words to him [Hektor]"

If mortals go astray from their fate, the immortals will interfere to guide them back onto the path of their fate.

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Theme of Pride

"the old man spoke, and begun pulling out his grey hairs with his hands, tearing them out of his head: but he could not move Hektor's heart"

This shows us that Hektor's pride has taken over his common sense and he is too focused on obtaining glory to care about the distress his parents are feeling.

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Theme of Anger

"I wish I could eat you myself, that the fury in my heart would drive me to cut you into pieces and eat your flesh raw, for all that you gave done to me"

Achilleus is emotionally unstable because he is mourning for Patroklos and is obsessed with avenging the death of his friend.

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Theme of the Role of Women

"Black night overed her eyes, and she swooned backwards, and the spirit breathed out of her. And she flung away from her head her shining headdress, the frontlet and the cap, the woven hair-band and the mantle"

Andromahe is so distraught when she hears the news of Hektor's death that she becomes unveiled in public which shows her image as the perfect Greek wife faltering in her grief.

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