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Parallel Themes in The Iliad and The Odyssey

March 24th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Iliad is an epic about the rage of Achilles. Achilles is a warrior on the Greek side of the Trojan war. The Iliad starts with Achilles’s excessive anger towards Agamemnon and ends with Achilles killing Nestor. Although Achilles does not do much fighting within the epic he plays a large role in one of the main themes within the epic; the theme that nothing is good in excess. Achilles has excessive rage and his friend Patroclus has excessive pride while fighting in Achilles’s armor. This theme can also be seen in The Odyssey . The excess of the suitors’s stay in Ithaca leads them to death upon the return of Odysseus. The theme of excess in anything leading to trouble is seen in both The Iliad and The Odyssey.

In The Iliad Homer stresses one very important theme, that theme is to do nothing in excess. He first shows this through Achilles excessive rage. Achilles becomes excessively angery with Agamemnon, in the first scene of the book, because Agamemnon took Achilles’ girl and made him look less of a man in front of his peers. With this rage against Agamemnon, Achilles decides not to fight in the war which causes many unnecessary deaths. Achilles’ excessive rage leads to more violence. The theme of doing nothing in excess is also seen in the character of Patroclus. When Patroclus takes Achilles’ armor into battle Achilles tells him to push the Trojans out of the Greek camp and no further. Patroclus pushes the Greeks out of the camp, but his excessive pride pushes him on even further. He pushed the Greeks all the way to the base of their walls where he is then killed. His death comes because of his excessive pride. The theme can be seen again in the first duel of the epic when Paris challenges any man to a duel to end the war once and for all. His excessive pride leads him into thinking he can challenge any man from the Greek side and defeat him to end the war, but when Menelaus accepts the fight Paris begins to back down, and eventually will have to be saved by Aphrodite from his death. Excessive pride in this situation lead Paris to believe that he was able to defeat any member of the Greeks, but he could not complete such a task. His excessive pride put him in a bad situation. Homer does not only use this theme in The Iliad, but he uses it in The Odyssey as well.

In the first part of The Odyssey we see the suitors in side the palace of Ithaca. These suitors have been in the palace too long. They have outstayed their welcome. Homer shows that their extensive stay was not the right action to take. In the closing books of the epic they are all put to death by Odysseus and his son, Telemachus. Another case of excessive pride leading to bad consequences is seen after Odysseus escapes from Polyphemus. Odysseus blinds Polyphemus with his sword and escapes by clinging to the underbelly of the sheep. After his escape he is excessively boastful with pride and shouts his name and his home land, as if blinding Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon, was something to be proud of. His excessive pride angers the god Poseidon, and with his anger will not let Odysseus get home. This excessive pride leads Odysseus to a very long journey home.

The theme anything in excesses can lead to bad consequences can be seen in both of Homer’s epics. It can be seen on both sides of the Trojan War and both sides of Odysseus’s battles, and it always leads to bad consequences.

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