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The Iliad Is The Poem Of Beautiful Death, While The Odyssey Is The Poem Of Timeworn, Embraceable Life. Do You Agree With This Statement?

1693 words - 7 pages

In this paper I intend to argue against the quote "The Iliad is the poem of beautiful death, while the Odyssey is the poem of timeworn, embraceable life". The story of the Iliad essentially revolves around the Trojan War and multiple battle scenes are included, which would suggest that it does paint a beautiful picture of death. The attitude, however, of many of the characters is not one that glorifies death and war but rather one that laments this inescapable fate of all mortals. While the plot of the Odyssey is about one man's return home to his family, there is hardly any mention of intimate family relationships. Instead, Odysseus' sole ambition to return home seems to be to earn his ...view middle of the document...

Glaucus also delivers a line of similar meaning "Human generations are like leaves in their seasons. The wind blows them to the ground, but the tree sprouts new ones when spring comes again" (Iliad 6. 149-151). Here he echoes Achilles' quote, stating how irrelevant a human life is by comparing it with a leaf.Looking at this matter from a women's perspective gives a different but still disheartening outlook on mortality. Andromache's line "When I lose you, Hector, there will be nothing left, no one to turn to, only pain" (Iliad 6. 433-435) shows the devastation of war on women. The war has taken many men who have been close to Andromache, including her father as well as seven brothers, and later, her husband Hector. While men can at least gain some honor from a death on the battlefield, women are the real casualties of war. Their greatest honor is being married off to an honorable man, but once that man is dead, a widow is condemned to a life of mourning and suffering. Worse still, if the opposing army manages to win the war, women will have to endure more suffering in the form of being a slave and sexual object for the enemy.Another major character, Hector, reveals his unwillingness to participate in battle in the phrase "Yes, Andromache, I worry about all this myself, but my shame before the Trojans and their wives…would be too terrible if I hung back from battle like a coward. And my heart won't let me" (Iliad 6. 463-467). Hector is well aware that by participating in the Trojan War, he faces certain death and would much rather prefer to avoid this. He has no choice, however, to not fight in the war; this inaction would be extremely dishonorable. This suggests that men are casualties of war too; they are forced to take part in an ordeal that will bring imminent death which when analyzed in this light, certainly does not glorify the death at all.In the Odyssey, the reader would expect Odysseus to play the role of a loyal father and husband willing to do anything to return home. However, the actions he carries out during his journey home convey a character unlike the one we would expect. Odysseus is portrayed as an individual that does not seem to hold his family and homeland in very high regard, and instead, seems to enjoy and want to prolong his return home.Odysseus' values towards mortality are revealed in the lines "If only I had gone down on that day…I would have had burial then, honored by the army" (Odyssey 5. 310-314). Just like the many characters in the Iliad, Odysseus also understands that he will eventually die so he might as well die with some honor. He laments his missed opportunity to do so during the Trojan War as he thinks he will soon die a honor less death while at sea. This also shows how Odysseus does not measure life through length but instead, through quality (feats achieved leading to honor) which opposes the timeworn embraceable life quotation.On his way home, Odysseus makes many rather dubious decisions...

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