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10th Grade Essay on The Iliad - 2nd Round of Feedback, please?


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I posted my 10th grader's first draft to the essay question below. I got great feedback to pass on to her. Here's her attempt to present a more "academic" essay. Thanks so much in advance for reading/commenting.


Is there a “heroic code†that guides the decisions of the characters in The Iliad? Discuss the values of the Homeric hero, paying particular attention to contrasting characters such as Achilles, Odysseus, Paris, and Hector. Does one character emerge as more heroic than the rest? Does one character emerge as less heroic?


In The Iliad, Homer creates a myriad of engaging characters, all with different personal philosophies and values that guide them individually. For Achilles, Odysseus, Paris, and Hector, their personal “heroic codes†that guide their actions are very different. Therefore, it is hard to clearly say if one is more heroic or less heroic than the rest.


Achilles, who is the main protagonist of the epic, seems to have personal honor and pride as his most important values, as evidenced by him telling Agamemnon that he will not fight so they will learn to appreciate him more. The following quote is evidence of his prideful nature: “…someday, I swear, a yearning for Achilles will strike Achaea’s sons and all your armies! But then, Atrides, harrowed as you will be, nothing you do can save you- not when your hordes of fighters drop and die, cut down by the man-killing Hector! Then- then you will tear your heart out, desperate, raging that you disgraced the best of the Achaeans!†(The Iliad 85)


Achilles’ dislike for insults to his pride is also shown when he asks his mother, Thetis, to get Zeus to tip the scale to favor the Trojan side for a while so that when Achilles finally does fight, he’ll get a great amount of glory. Zeus does as he asks, and the Achaeans suffer grievous losses at the fault of Hector until Achilles’ good friend Patroclus is killed. Achilles, consumed by grief, manages to fight his way to the walls of Troy and kill Hector in a one-on-one battle so he can avenge his fallen friend and regain his honor. Then, he ties Hector’s body to a chariot and drags it around Patroclus’ grave whenever he feels his grief about to consume him. After a few days, Priam, Hector’s father, manages to get Hector’s body back to Troy with the help of the gods.


Odysseus, a clever tactician who is favored by Athena, also has his own “heroic code†that is based on his values and morals. He seems to value bravery and respect amongst comrades, which is shown when he threatens Thersites, an insubordinate soldier, for bad-mouthing Agamemnon. Also, when Agamemnon was testing the troops’ bravery by ordering them back to their ships, Odysseus instead takes Agamemnon’s scepter and uses it to convince the soldiers not to. Respect to authority may also be one of his personal values, as his manner of “convincing†them to not run off and go home varies between very polite or very informal. When he saw a fellow king walking back to their ships, he said to him: “My friend- it’s wrong to threaten you like a coward, but you stand fast, you keep your men in check! It’s too soon to see Agamemnon’s purpose clearly. Now he’s only testing us, soon he’ll bear down hard.†(The Iliad 105) When he saw regular foot-soldiers going back to their ships however, he uses much more informal language and “dresses them downâ€. This serves get them excited at the prospect of more fighting, which was most likely his plan all along.


Hector, like Achilles, holds personal honor and pride as two of his main values. For example, as he is about to be killed by Achilles, he begs- on the honor of his parents- Achilles to let his body be taken back to Troy so that they can honor him properly (Achilles says no). He also seems to become more fired up in the wake of a friend’s death, as shown after Sarpedon is killed: “He was their city’s bastion, always, even though he came from foreign parts, and a mass of allies marched at his command but he excelled them in battle, always. So now they went at the Argives, out for blood.†(The Iliad 430).


On the other hand, Hector is shown to be slightly more aggressive than Achilles, and is more arrogant. A prime example is when Patroclus, about to be killed, basically tells Hector that even though he has glory now, he will soon be killed by Achilles. Hector, unimpressed, says this: “Why, Patroclus- why prophesy my doom, my sudden death? Who knows?- Achilles the son of sleek-haired Thetis may outrace me- struck by my spear first- and gasp away his life!†(The Iliad 440).


With Paris, it is harder to definitively say what kind of heroic code guides him, as he doesn’t have very many passages from his perspective. Plus, he only interacts with three people: Hector, Helen, and Menelaus. However, from those interactions one could say that he shares some of the same values as Hector, like honor, as evidenced by his request that he and Menelaus have a one-on-one duel that would’ve ended the war: “Now, though, if you really want me to fight to the finish here. Have all the Trojans and Argives take their seats and pit me against Menelaus dear to Ares- right between the lines- we’ll fight it out for Helen and all her wealth. And the one who proves the better man and wins, he’ll take those treasures fairly, lead the woman home. The rest will seal in blood their binding pacts of friendship. Our people will live in peace on the rich soil of Troy, our enemies will sail home to the stallion-land of Argos, the land of Achaea where the women are a wonder…†(The Iliad 131)

However, he is shown to be less prideful than his brother. This is shown by how easily he takes Hector’s criticisms of his when he runs from Menelaus the first time he see him on the battle field: “Ah Hector, you criticize me fairly, yes, nothing unfair, beyond what I deserve.†(The Iliad 130).


Going back to the issue of who, out of the four, is the most heroic, it is hard to give a definitive answer. If judging by personal philosophies and values, then Odysseus or Paris would be the most heroic because they don’t appear to let their pride run away with them. If judging by physical accomplishments, Achilles or Hector would be the best bet, as they seem to hold the highest amount of their respective enemies defeated individually. Either way, the four characters are too different to confidently chose who is more or less heroic than the others.

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