Book 24- Summary, Themes, Motifs and Symbols

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  • Created on: 26-05-15 10:36


Every day Achilleus, still grieving for Patroklos, drags Hektor's body three times round Patroklos' tomb. For eleven days the gods look on in anger and pity for Hektor, and then a divine assembly, roughened by a quarrelsome speech by Hera, causes Zeus to summon Thetis to Olympos with a proposal which will both save Hektor's body and do honour to Achilleus. The lapse of time, the god's anger parallel in duration to that of Achilleus in Book 1, the troubled divine assembly thereafter, the presence of Thetis, first come to demand honour for Achilleus and in the end sent to achieve it, begin a series of explicit or implicit relations especially with Book 1, but also with the rest of the Iliad, which establish the final book as both climax and reversal.

Thetis is sent to tell Achilleus of the god's anger, and request that he releases the body for ransom. In parallel Iris goes to Priam and tells him to bring ransom to Achileus: 'he is not foolish or blind or godless, but wil show a suppliant all kindness and spare him'. Again, divine causation will work through human inclination

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Summary Continued

Priam determines to go to the ships, despite Hekabe's strong opposition (this had been his own first impulse when he saw Hektor killed, and that passage, also prefigures the terms of his appeal to Achilleus). In a marvellously human scene he drives all the Trojan bystanders away, and rails at his other sons, those who had survived where Hektor was killed. As Priam says to Achilleus, Hektor was his 'one son'.

Priam is met on the plain as darkness falls and escorted to Achilleus' hut by the disguised Hermes, on Zeus' orders. This is the most extensive meeting between god and man in the Iliad, a mysterious scene, serving as an earnest and a visible expression of the rare divine pity which motivates this final act and works in parallel with human pity to bring a resolution.

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Summary Continued

Priam comes wordlessly into Achilleus' presence, and clasps his kness, and kisses his hands, 'those terrible, murderous hands, which had killed many of his sons', the full ritual of supplication. He succeeds by reminding Achilleus of his own father (in both senses of 'remind'), the appeal which had been made unsuccessfully by both Odysseus and Phoinis (the surrogate father) in Book 9, and Achilleus is moved to shared lamentation, and to pity. Achilleus' reply expresses the whole tragic version in the Iliad. He sees the fellowship of suffering which links Peleus and Priam - both had reached the height of human greatness, but irretrievable misery had come to both in the loss of their 'only' son, since Achilleus can no more protect Peleus in his old age than Hektor now can Priam - and sets them in a universal context, as high paradigms of the human condition under divine governance. The gods have no sorrows: suffering and death are fate of mortals: lamentation (for Patroklos, for Hektor, for any man) cannot change that.

Achilleus is still dangerous - for all his pity (and he had been 'pitiless' before), anger, controlled by self-knowledge, is close to the surface - but his respect for Priam holds. He lifts Hektor's body on to the bier with his own hands, leaving clothing from the ransom to shroud it, insists on the full and symbolic hospitality of food and bed (as he had in Book 9), and agrees to hols the Achaians from hostilities for the time that Priam wants for Hektor's burial (a final interval that corresponds to the days of plague at the beginning of Book 1).

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Summary Continued

Hermes wakes Priam and escorts him out of the Achaian campe. As the new day dawns, and Priam brings Hektor's body to the gates of Troy, the whole population gathers in grief. There follow laments held by the three women - Andromache, Hekabe and Helen - whose relation to Hektor, and dependence on him, had been explored in Book 6. Nine days are spent in preparation for a funeral which matches that of Patroklos. The long threat of desecration, abhorrent to gods and men, gives way to proper ritual: and the Iliad ends with a dwelling description of that which is denied in its opening lines, the honorific burial of a hero, duly lamented by family and people.

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Theme of Military Glory Over Family Life

"you used to protect the city and keep safe her wives and children"

Hektor fought in war on behalf of his city, he protected his family in a way which they didn't agree with because he chose fighting in war over staying and protecting his family.

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Theme of Impermanence of Human Life

"The two of them began to weep in remembrance"

This illustrates the theme because is shows how impermanence of human life affects other people such as death has brought up past emotions. It helps them to bond and signifies the relationships they have between one another.

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Theme of Interaction between Fate and Freewill

"White-armed Andromache began their lamentation, holding murderous Hektor's head between her hands"

This illustrates the theme of the interaction between fate and free will, because when Andromache is mourning over Hektor's death, she knew that is was Hektor's fate to be killed by Achilleus.

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Theme of Intervention of the Immortals

"They kept urging Hermes the shark sighted slayer of Argos to steal the body"

"Iris sped to give his message"

This depicts the theme of the intervention of the immortals because it shows how the immortals are dissatisifed with Achilleus' dishonour over Hektor's body, and although Hera objects, the gods do intervene and cause Achilleus to stop dragging Hektr's body around using Iris; to tell Thetis to tell her son to stop being dishonourable and to tell Priam to bring gifts to Achilleus to soften his heart.

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Theme of Pride

"I will go. Do not try to hold me back, or make yourself a bird of ill omen in our house - you will not dissuade me"

This shows the theme of pride because Priam is agreeing to give gifts to the man who murdered his son. This conveys that he is willing to allow himself to be civil with Achilleus despite the fact that he is perfectly within his right to be profoundly angry with him.

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Theme of Anger

"And leave me behind a widow in your house"

Andromache expresses her anger as she is now a widower and will be put into slavery because her husband was purposefully killed in war due to his actions. She is also angry as he chose war over his family as he could have came back and left with them but instead he carried on in battle knowing that if her died, his son will be killed and his wife will be put into slavery.

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Theme of the Role of Women

"Dearest to my heart"

You used to protect your city"

"You were loved by the Gods"

"You brought the curse of grief"

This illustrates the theme as the role of women show how as Hektor has been in war, all they have been able to do is prepare for his death as they know he will die in battle. The womens laments portray the different relationships they had with Hektor, some of them are praising his work in battle and the impact he had on everyones lives. However, some such as Andromache are complaining about his death as he had the option of leaving battle and being with his family but he chose to fight in battle for his city.

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Motif of Burial

"they placed his body at the top of the pyre and put fire to it"

This shows the ritual of burial because it conveys how people are honoured when they die and how a proper burial is ensured, despite Hektor being Achilleus' enemy.

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