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From Nature and Culture in the Iliad: the Tragedy of Hector Bibliography

From Nature and Culture in the Iliad: The Tragedy of Hector.Copyright 1975 by The University of Chicago.The University of Chicago Press.

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In his Chicago University Press article Nature and Culture in the Iliad: The Tragedy of Hector, James M. Redfield describes how “A Homeric community consists, in effect, of those who are ready to die for one another”, and the heroic role that the warriors from such a “tight-knit community” must achieve through action. He continues to mention how society contributes to the encouragement of this certain social task and the desire for the status of heroism.

Among these nations and warriors, there is “a double meaning of combat: Defensive yet aggressive and altruistic yet egotistic”. The lengths these men go to in order to attain what they seek is imperative to the negative effects it also has. The heroes of these communities are praised by society and they are portrayed as being god-like, but “All of this is only a social illusion; the hero may appear god-like but he is only mortal. ”Their people put them onto a pedestal, and that praise alone gives them privileges over the average citizen.

Knowledge of these privileges puts pressure on someone who is defending their nation. Their job is to protect their people, however; if a nation isn’t at war then the warriors wouldn’t be able to prove themselves. So they are then obligated to seek out another nation and use force against that land, which can have a detrimental outcome. This creates a “paradox”. “To die for something, he says, is better than to die for nothing – and that is, after all, the alternative. ” These warriors legitimize themselves by showing off the virtues that are of necessity on and off the battlefield.

On the battlefield they, without hesitation, instinctively act in the way needed to survive. Yet, simultaneously, they’re capable of analyzing the situation and absorb the fact that, ultimately, the cost of their duty is indeed with their own lives. When on the battlefield, the warrior is able to see past society’s “solid and enduring” culture for what is truly is. In the soldiers’ perspective, the things valued in culture among society are “secondary”. “For the warrior, culture appears as a translucent screen against the terror of nature. ” Living a meaningless life isn’t going to give onor, privileges, or most importantly remembrance. Regardless, if their army started the war or not, they will be remembered by their people. To these men, it is more honorable to go down fighting rather than to stand for nothing. These are the very things that cause the people to esteem the warriors and what separates society from the men engaged in war. These men become heroes because of their mere mortality and they “can choose to die well”. It is perceived by me, that Redfield recognizes this and holds a great level of respect for the men of valor during that age.

I can acknowledge how great these men were and what they did for their people. I also realize how we can closely relate them to the soldiers in our lives that come home from stints at war, and how being on the battlefield changes their mentality towards certain things. In my opinion, there was a miniscule yet substantial message hidden here that we can all learn from. In today’s society, we do not hold enough respect for the men and women who put in so much dedication to protecting their country’s people and how life-threateningly dangerous it is.

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