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Plot Analysis of the Iliad

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In The Iliad, Hector, the main protagonist, can be considered a hero since he displayed a sufficient amount of heroic virtue throughout the epic poem. Hector possessed heroic qualities of bravery, intelligence, integrity, and physical strength. Hector sacrificed his life by refusing to retreat to Troy, where he would have remained safe. Instead, he fought Achilles, knowing that he deserved to suffer the consequences from his previous choices. Although Achilles triumphed, Hector’s actions displayed his dignity and will power. Despite the knowledge of his inevitable fate, Hector continued to fight the Achaeans heroically up until his final moments. Achilles, on the other hand, cannot be considered a hero. Achilles’ conceited personality prevented him from acting with honesty and virtue. He was a temperamental character who often took his anger out on his men, costing them their lives. Achilles had an obsession with vengeance and victory, fixating all of his time into these things until he accomplished them. It is obvious that Hector is the true hero in The Iliad.

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Hector possessed integrity and remained a thoughtful man even through difficult times. Although the Trojan War brought separation from his family, Hector made time to visit his wife and son. Though his wife, Andromache, pleaded for him to stay, Hector insisted on returning to battle. He claimed that his fate was inevitable. Hector even made time for his brother, Paris, who had removed himself from war and claimed he was too distressed to continue. He criticized Paris for being a coward and persuaded him to return to war. He consoled Paris, forgave him, and dismissed his brother’s absence of enthusiasm to fight. Hector admitted that he was fighting in the Trojan War to obtain great glory for his father, Priam, and for himself as well. Upon his return to the war, the gods Athena and Apollo, who sided with the Achaeans, decided to stop the fighting for the day, then continue the following day with a duel between an Achaean and a Trojan. Hector offered to fight of behalf of the Trojans, displaying his thoughtfulness Although neither opponent won the duel, Hector and Great Ajax, the chosen Achaean opposer, commenced a friendship and exchanged gifts. Through this act of dignity, Hector displayed his faithfulness to the ground rules that were set prior to the duel, proving his honorability in the way he treated his enemies. 

Hector’s position as chief commander of the Trojans allowed him to demonstrate his heroic capabilities to his men. Hector’s qualities of bravery and strength often permitted him to organize the Trojans for battle by giving them the spirit to fight. An example of Hector’s leadership skills was portrayed after Sarpedon, a Trojan ally, condemned Hector for losing faith in himself and his men. In response to the criticism, Hector gathered his men and drove them into battle. In retaliation to Sarpedon’s censure, Hector did the exact opposite of what he was denounced for, proving his dedication to his men. When Apollo convinced Ares to fight on behalf of the Trojans, Hector and his men fought harder, eventually frightening the Achaeans. The divine intervention of the gods inspired Hector to fight forcefully for the Achaeans, allowing the Trojans to gain some leverage in the war. 

Hector displayed his courage when he volunteered to fight an Achaean on behalf of the Trojans, not knowing who his opposer was. Although neither opponent won in the duel, Hector and Great Ajax, the chosen Achaean opposer, commenced a friendship treaty and gifts. Hector also displayed courage when he fatally wounded Teucer, an Achaen master-archer, who killed several Trojans. Following the mass murder that Zeus had sent upon the Achaeans, Agamemnon pushed the Trojans to retreat back to Troy. Zeus responded to Agamemnon’s vengeance by sending Iris to inform Hector to wait to attack Achilles until he was injured. Once Agamemnon was injured and forced to leave the fighting, Hector attacked the Achaeans and ultimately drove them back. In Book Twelve, while the Achaeans discovered that their defenses were destined to be destroyed when Troy lost, the Trojan chariots were blocked by the Achaean-dug trench. Despite the set-back, Hector remained unafraid and ordered his men to leave their chariots and attack the barricades. 

As the Trojans readied themselves to cross the channel, an eagle dropped a serpent on the Trojans. Polydamas interpreted the snake as a sign that their mission would be unsuccessful and pleaded with Hector to retreat, but he refused. Through his perseverance, it is clear that Hector remained brave and ignored the sign from Zeus. He stayed dedicated to his men and persisted. As they continued to fight, the Trojans were beaten by the two Aeantes. While some were able to return to the Trojans defenses, others continued to fight. Hector decided to regroup and attempted to gather his men, though most were injured or dead. Great Ajax criticed Hector, and the eagle appeared once more, yet on the Achaeans’ side. During the fight, Hector was faced with the decision of regrouping his men and retreating, or dividing them along the Achaean side. His leadership skills were tested and he ultimately made the right choice. In Book Fifteen, Hector courageously led an attack on the Achaeans, causing them to retreat in fear. His bravery allowed the Trojans to destroy the Achaeans’ raparts. Hector displayed bravery when he got into a fight with Ajax and grouped his men together to attack the Achaeans. In Book Sixteen, Hector finally killed Patroclus after being convinced by Apollo to attack him. Although Apollo injured Patroclus, it was Hector who actually killed him. Despite the consequences Hector knew would come out of killing Patroclus, he did it anyway on behalf of the Trojans. In Book Twenty-Two, Athena, disguised as Deiphobus, persuaded Hector that together, they could defeat Achilles. Hector stopped running from Achilles and decided to face him. Hector knew his time had come and that he would not prevail in this fight, yet still bravely fought on behalf of the Trojans. In hopes of glory, Hector battled Achilles, but quickly lost, since he was wearing Achilles’ old stolen armor and his opponent knew the weak areas. Although Hectors knew his inevitable fate, he still continued to fight heroically up until the moment of his death because he was so devoted to Troy.

Hector also possessed intelligence, which he used to his advantage to get his men out of any situation. He utilized his intelligence when the Trojans had captured the Achaeans. Hector ordered his men to light hundreds of campfires that prevented the Achaeans from escaping. Hector displayed his intelligence again when he informed his wife, Andromache, that his fate was inevitable. This action portrayed Hector’s intelligence because he did not alleviate the fact that he was going to die to his family. Hector believed that it would be easier for them to know that he was going to die in advance. He sacrificed his family to fight for the Trojans. Hector also possessed physical strength as well, just like any exceptional epic hero. Hector demonstrated his strength when he picked up a rock with ease and threw it into doors that blocked his army’s  way. Hector also depicted his physical strength when he hurled himself into a gate and broke the hinges. He utilized his strength to his benefit, whether it was fighting an opponent or rescuing his men from any situation. 

Although Achilles prevailed, he cannot be considered a hero since he did not display a sufficient amount of heroic virtue throughout the epic poem. Achilles was a bloodthirsty character and was driven by anger. Achilles’ narcissistic personality prevented him from acting with honesty and virtue. Achilles tended to depend on his mother, Thetis, to persuade the gods to favor him, displaying how immature Achilles actually was. Achilles showed no mercy to Hector’s body after killing him to avenge Patroclus’ and he disrespected Hector’s last wishes to have his body returned to Troy. Achilles often took his anger out on others, which usually cost them their lives. This is shown when Achilles sacrificed twelve men at the funeral of Patroclus. Although he sacrificed the men for the death of his friend, this action comes off as selfish and unnecessary. Another example of Achilles’ self-centered personality was when he denied Agamemnon’s offerings as an apology for stealing Briseis and his request for help. Achilles, instead of helping his fellow comrades, remained with his ships. His stubbornness prohibited Achilles’ from forgiving Agamemnon and he continued to hold his grude despite his comrade’s apology.

Although there were two main protagonists in The Iliad, only Hector can be considered a true hero because he was the only one to display a sufficient amount of heroic virtue throughout the epic poem. Hector possessed heroic qualities of bravery, intelligence, integrity, and physical strength. He remained dedicated to Troy, fighting the Achaeans up until his death. Although Achilles was victorious overall, Hector’s actions displayed his dignity and will power. Achilles, on the other hand, cannot be considered a true hero because he did not display a sufficient amount of heroic virtue. Achilles let his narcissistic personality overcome him, preventing him to act with virtuism and honesty. He was a bloodthirsty character, driven by vengeance. His selfishness only permitted him to look out for himself and allowed others to take the fall on his behalf. Though Achilles was chosen by the gods to prevail, Hector is the true hero in this epic poem.   

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