Home Forums Litterae Forum The Iliad Likeable Protagonists?

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    Were the heroes of The Iliad all jerks? If so, does that stop us liking them? Agamemnon is avaristic, Achilles proud, Paris weak and cowardly and Hector gambles with his family’s safety. Can such a famous and important book really be lacking that key ingredient of literature, likeable protagonists?


    Andrew Knepley

    Likeable Protaganists? Can any war, mythical or historical, have only like able protagonists? If so, there probably would not have been a war in the first place. So having likeable protagonists isn’t really the point. Human beings are complex creatures, even the least intelligent ones. From a literary perspective, it’s what drives the plot along: Agamemnon has his excuse to launch his war of conquest, Achilles’ chance at even more glory, etc., etc. the shifting events are bigger than any one character and constantly cause each character to change accordingly — but they do not always do so easily. The war’s interactions are so complex even the gods attempt to influence it, yet they only ale things worse. The war becomes a character as much as it is a plot. Homer is one of the first, if not the first, to understand this and write it down for posterity. A huge leap in understanding and expression from other tales like the Epic of Gilgamesh or the Greek myths. Homer created a literary template that continues to be used by storytellers everywhere: read Shakespeare’s plays or a good history of World War II. Likeable protagonists don’t make for either interesting characters or better understanding.



    Very interesting opinion!

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