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The Metamorphosis of Achilles in Homer’s The Iliad Essay

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The Metamorphosis of Achilles in Homer’s The Iliad


Dr. Frost’s comments: With his clear explanation, illustrative quotes, and logical organization, the student easily proves his thesis, recapped and affirmed very well in the final paragraph.

From the first pages of Homer’s The Iliad, Achilles is portrayed as vengeful, proud, and petty. As the book progresses, the image of Achilles as a spiteful child is sharpened dramatically. Towards the end of the epic; however, Achilles begins to exhibit qualities that are considered heroic even in today’s society. Once his loyal and trusted friend Patroclus dies, Achilles undergoes a drastic change in character. When he confronts the true horror of death, Achilles puts aside his immature ways to fulfill his duty to his friend, his compatriots, and his conscience. In this way, the progression of Achilles as a character is an analogy for the transition from youth to maturity.

The first book of The Iliad, appropriately titled the “Rage of Achilles,” sets the scene for the remainder of the epic. Agamemnon seizes Achilles’ prize, the beautiful Briseis, to sooth his own wounded pride. Even though Achilles is correct to suggest that Agamemnon return Chryseis, the swift runner’s brash manner leaves Agamemnon feeling slighted. In return, Achilles vows that he will not fight in the Trojan War any longer. Once Briseis is seized, Achilles goes to the beach to cry to his mother. This is reminiscent of how a small child would act when denied something he wants. It seems that Homer is trying to compare Achilles’ actions in the early books to that of a child.

Achilles implores his mother to go to Zeus and ask the god to crush the Greeks until they give Achilles the honors he ...


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...les has been throughout the epic. His actions show that he has finally seen to the heart of his fury and found it pointless and destructive. He is ready to fulfill his duty to the Greeks, yet is willing to treat his enemies with respect and courtesy because they are humans as well.

In conclusion, the progression of Achilles’ character in The Iliad can easily be viewed as an analogy for the progression of a child to an adult. From the spiteful rage in the beginning to the compassionate respect in the end of the epic, Achilles’ development mirrors that of a stereotypical human from childhood to maturity. The concepts that seem important to him in the beginning, his honor and glory, slowly become supplanted by more reasonable and mature ideals of duty, respect and compassion.

Work Cited

Homer: Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Barnes and Noble, 2003.


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