Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Return of the Iliadic Platypus: The Platypus Reads Part CLXXII

Having finished Jane Eyre and watched to 2011 film, my wife and I have moved on to Homer's Iliad.  We're using the Fitzgerald translation this time (sorry Fagles) and are about half way through the book.  My wife hasn't read the Iliad since college and I haven't read it in three years so the story feels nice and fresh.  Homer was also meant to be spoken, so we're also enjoying the chance to experience the story as an oral performance.  We haven't put together any graduate thesis abstracts yet, but we did come across a couple things that I thought I'd share:

1. Diomedes is the foil for Achilles.  Watch Diomedes closely the next time you read through.  He performs prodigies, but always backs away when the gods put their foot down.  He's scrupulous in obeying the immortals and knows how to take and give flack to his superiors, particularly Agamemnon.  You'll also find him actively seeking out and learning from the older men, particularly Odysseus and Nestor.  The result of all this is that he's generally beloved, still kicks major butt on the battlefield, and will make it back from the war to settle happily in Italy.  Because Diomedes knows his place, he gets everything Achilles loses (glory, prizes, friendship, the safety of his comrades, favor of the gods), including his return home.  A final little note to push this point: Paris shoots Diomedes in the heel and Diomedes survives.

2. All of these characters have wonderfully drawn personalities.  The more I read Homer, the more his characters stand out as recognizable individuals.  There are perfect little moments that each character gets that gives you the person in a snapshot: Odysseus talking to himself as he's surrounded by foes, Diomedes getting dressed down by Agamemnon and telling his friend to shut it when he attempts to back-talk the commander, Nestor getting lost in the glory days in the middle of trying to get Patroklos to to pressure Achilles, Ajax plowing into chariots and knocking them over in a frantic effort to save his retreating friends, Agamemnon's brotherly exchange with Menelaos before the night raid and his efforts to give his brother the credit when Nestor gripes about him.

That's it for now.  If something else strikes us that seems novel or worth repeating, I'll post it.  meanwhile, prior thoughts on the Iliad can be found here.

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