‘Discuss the role of women in Homer’s Iliad with particular reference to the character of Andromache.’
The role of women in Homer’s Iliad is one which is often overshadowed by their male counterparts. Much of the Iliad is focused on glory in battle and the heroic code, however Homer still manages to include scenes which show the effects of war on women. While Helen is generally considered to be the main female mortal character in the Iliad, I feel that Andromache, loyal wife of Hektor, is a much more prominent female figure. Unlike women in general in the Iliad, Andromache's role goes beyond being just another spoil of the war. Homer treats her as a counterpart to Hektor (she is, in a sense, his "equal"), giving her actions and words a greater significance. Andromache's lamentations in Book 6, 22 and 24 are particularly powerful because Homer (or Fagles) effectively uses literary techniques to convey images that bring out feelings of empathy to the audience. In the Iliad, Andromache's lamentations are poignant, intense passages that serve as a characterisation of Andromache, providing the reader with a further understanding of Hektor, Trojan life, and the impact of the Trojan War.
Andromache's lamentations emphasises the impact of the Trojan War on life at home and on the family. Through their behavior, the male characters embody war, aggression, and honor, while Andromache and her fellow Trojan women become representatives for peace, love, and family. Andromache's lamentations acutely portray the sense of despair, loss, and sadness that comes with any war at any time in history. Here, Homer's use of an emotive tone serves to highlight the sense of tragedy in a way that the audience could relate to. In all her lamentations, Andromache does not center her speeches on only Hektor's death or the immediate events of the war. Instead, she concentrates much of the passage on her dismal predictions about her son, Astyanax's and the life he will experience without a father. By focusing on Astyanax, Homer reminds the audience of the bigger picture of the Trojan War and the impact of war on all people, not just the impact on the protagonists of the story.
Andromache's speech in Book 6 sheds light not only on the effects of war, but also on the relationship between Andromache and Hektor. Hektor declaring that he would rather be dead than hear or see Andromache being taken away illustrates the powerful love between Andromache and Hektor, and the depth of their bond
gives the reader a sense of strength ...