Credited as the author of two of the greatest works of literature, the blind poet Homer is renowned for writing the legendary stories, The Iliad and its sequel, Odyssey. His poems are regarded as the oldest extant works of Western literature. The Iliad is a story about the Trojan War that took place during Ancient Greek times. It is only through this piece of literature combined with other authors’ works that we are aware of such an event. Whether or not it existed has been debated throughout the centuries, and thus, we regard Homer’s writing as a strong contribution to the beginnings of Greek mythology, a collection of myths concerning Greek religion and culture. The common theme of all Greek mythology concerns powerful gods, heroes, mythological creatures and humans. These myths have had major influences in art and culture, and even during modern society today with its teaching of our beginnings, history and, morals and lessons for our daily lives.
In Ancient Greece, it was believed that gods had a great authority over human existence. Since one’s destiny was thought to be pre-determined by gods, mortals lived in accordance with their rules. This was done in an effort to appease and avoid insulting them or one would risk a doomed fate. Thus, the line between human choices and god's puppetry was unclear as the events and incidences in the peoples’ lives unfold.
The Trojan War, as described in The Iliad, is known to be the greatest conflict of all Greek mythology. It is a mortal battle between the Greeks and Trojans that began due to a conflict between the gods. Drawn from a section of The Iliad, David Malouf’s poignant novel Ransom explores the themes of revenge, redemption and fate during the Trojan War. While The Iliad is heavily focused on the gods and the battles fought amongst the people, Ransom explores a new avenue of human relationships through two main characters: Achilles, the greatest warrior and hero of the Trojan War and Priam, the elderly king of Troy who has lost his son in battle.
Setting / Time
The city of Troy, a place that was initially believed to be factual until Archaeologists excavated sites in Turkey during the 19th century. The city is now widely accepted to have existed, with the Trojan War dated between 1194 – 1184 BC.
Although war was the solution to major conflicts during the Ancient Greek period, David Malouf highlights the superior notion of mediation. The occurrence of war and its consequences leads to a multitude of deaths, and thus pain and suffering for all those involved. Ultimately, while one side may prevail, the residing feelings of hostility from one team towards another will inevitably continue. On the other hand, peace can achieve resolution, redemption and even new hope since both sides can cooperate in the future. Hence, it is shown that negotiation is a better pathway than surging into war.
In this time, royalty was viewed as always superior to the common populace. Nevertheless, through the relationship of the king Priam and commoner Somax, it is shown that our social status only provides us a position of power or authority, yet does little to teach us the simplest lessons in life. Somax is shown to be far more informed and knowledgeable man than even the king, highlighting that regardless of our name and position, anyone can teach another human new experiences and teachings.
Ransom also suggests that no matter our age, whether young or old, it is never too late to change our ways. Although we may have created a comfortable mould over the years with our behaviour, opinions and actions, we always have time to create a transformation.
Additionally, a more philosophical purpose of the novel is displayed through the message that life comes and goes. As humans, the people and events in our lives are of the utmost importance to us. We experience a spectrum of emotions from contentment and pleasure to sorrow and pain. In the end however, as our lives are destined for death, the lessons that we learn also disappear with us. Thus, in the scheme of things, our lives are insignificant. As time continues on, the effect of our place in the world gradually fades away as new life and forms emerge once again.
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