In image of two vultures fighting makes

April 21, 2019 General Studies

In all the books of “The Iliad”, Homer uses a multitude of literary techniques to evolve and strengthen the bond between book and reader. In book 16, Patroclus Fights and Dies, two of these techniques caught my eye: epic similes paired with imagery, and Homer’s deliberate change in point of view.
Throughout book 16, Homer is constantly comparing the battle scenes to different animals and farmland life. On page 426 when Homer is describing the beginning of the battle between Sarpedon and Patroclus, he describes the two men as, “a pair of crook-clawed, hook-beaked vultures…”(line 509), painting a vulgar and frightening picture. The image of two vultures fighting makes it easier for readers to grasp the savagery and ferocity of the two men. Homer also describes the fight over Sarpedons body as” flies over a bucket of fresh milk” (p. 433, line 745). Homer’s audience, individuals who work on farms and have never seen a battle in their lives, have most likely never seen armies fighting over a corpse. Therefore, in order to make his readers really picture this scene, he compares it to an image that is quite familiar to them so they can make a connection. Then again, Homer depicts both Patroclus and Hector as lions twice. First when Patroclus strikes down Sarpedon, whom he describes as a helpless bull (p428, line 575), again when Patroclus and Hector fight over the body of Cebriones (p437, line 880), and last when Hector stabs Patroclus(p439, line 959). Homer takes a familiar animal to describe these scenes to give Patroclus and Hector the same characteristics of a lion: brutal, bloodthirsty, and murderous.
These example of imagery is a prime example of the impact an effective comparison can have on making the scene more graphic. It is hard for any human to picture something that they have not experienced. For Homer’s readers to understand the true barbarity of this battle, he compares it to his reader’s home life. He brilliantly takes familiar situations?vultures, flies and milk, bull versus lion?and uses epic similes to tie them to the book and make the reading more true to life.
While Homer takes full advantage of the power of epic similes to make The Iliad more realistic, he also switches his point of view in this book to encourage his readers to empathize. In book 16, Patroclus is having his aristeia before he falls to Hector. During his epic battle scenes, Homer addresses Patroclus directly a multitude of times; after Patroclus was attacked by Apollo and Euphorbus is approaching with his spear, Homer writes, “He was the first to launch a spear against you, Patroclus O my rider, but did not bring you down,”(p439, line 943). He addresses Patroclus as “O my rider” several times throughout the text. This transition from third person to second person writing is a rare occurrence throughout The Iliad, and this plethora of instances concentrated in book 16 for Patroclus is no accident on Homers part. Homer speaking
directly to his character is meant to display an emotional struggle, as though he is grieving for Patroclus. Homer wants his readers to see this warrior being brought down
and to mourn for him as well, especially on page 440, line 985 when Homer writes, “Struggling for breath, you answered, Patroclus O my rider…”. Homer wants his readers to empathize with not only him, but all the Achaeans, especially Achilles. This break in his usual point of view does just that. It humanizes Patroclus, making him more real to Homer’s readers. Without this literary technique, we would miss the emphasis the author is trying to put on Patroclus’ death. We as readers would miss the sense of loss Homer wants us to feel for the Achaeans, and would make this chapter less powerful.
These literary techniques, epic similes with imagery and Homer’s change in point of view, elevate the importance and the strong influence on this chapter. Homer’s deliberate connections between his audience’s life and his writing, and his emphasis on Patroclus enables another level of understanding. Without them, his readers would not have have grasped the main premise of “Patroclus Fights and Dies”. Rather than simple understanding, the readers can accurately visualize what transpiring in the scene, giving them a more intense and attention-grabbing battle scene. Rather than seeing Patroclus as just another casualty, readers can suffer with the Achaeans; they can feel the horror at the loss of strong, or as Homer described him, “greathearted Patroclus,” (p439, line 953). The impact of these literary techniques was what made this book a strong emotional turning point that turned the tide in the war: Achilles return.


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