Homer’s Representation of Individuality in Greek Oral Traditions





Homer’s Representation of Individuality in Greek Oral Traditions

In overview, Homer is conservatively deemed as the author and creator of Greek writing as well as the entire Western literary tradition. With his notable works, The Odyssey and The Iliad, Homer largely defined the direction of Greek mythology based on his recollection and transformation of ancient oral traditions into written narratives. However, the difference between Homer and most authors of oral traditions is based specifically on his representation of the narrative’s characters. Undeniably, the author presents the characters he creates by supplementing individuality, which ultimately establishes the personal disparities that exist among them. This is best shown by the lives and actions of characters in The Odyssey and The Iliad and the different aspects that influence their duties within the narratives. Through the characters of Hector, Nestor, Ajax, Odysseus, Agamemnon, Priam, and Phoenix, Homer thrives in presenting differentiated individuals within the Greek oral traditions.

One of the ways in which Homer supplements individuality to the characters is through the different decisions that they make in relation to their impending situations. Accordingly, the decisions made by the different characters are motivated by personal motives, which affect their lives in a disparate and surprising way than anticipated. Interestingly, each of the decision made by the characters succeeds in imposing different implications on them as well as the lives of other persons around them. In this case, the use of individuality allows the characters to undergo development as persons. For instance, Achilles’ initial decision to abandon Agamemnon’s war is influenced by Nestor’s decision in attempting to convince Agamemnon to send a convoy to Achilles in order for him to return to war (Hunt et al. 94). Despite the different motives of the characters, the unexpected decision by Achilles to abandon the war and Nestor’s involvement illustrate the individual differences between both characters.

Another way in which Homer represents the characters as differentiated individuals involves the use of emotions. Homer applies emotions in order to illustrate the moral ambiguities evident in the characters. In this respect, the author shows them as real persons due to the moral and ethical issues they face in relation to gratifying their needs. For instance, in The Odyssey, Homer illustrates the extent to which emotions influence the character’s inclination or deviation towards inhumanity. The interplay between the character of Hector and Achilles in the Trojan duel reveals this aspect of individuality. In this case, Hector proposes that the winner of the duel transport the loser’s cadaver to his friends and family (Hunt et al. 44). In this case, Hector displays one side of humanity associated with compassion and respect. On the other hand, Achilles’ decision to refuse the request illustrates humanity’s dark side via hatred among enemies.

Homer’s portrayal of relationships further illustrates his representation of individuality among the narrative’s characters. This is best evidenced by the conflicting father-son association that exists between Priam and Hector. Additionally, the introduction of ancestral loyalty identifies the author’s development of the respective characters as different individuals due to its implications on their behavior (Homer 56). In another illustration, the relationship between Odysseus and his wife, Penelope, also reflects Homer’s supplementation of individuality on the respective characters. In this case, the connection that exists between the two allows Penelope to maintain faithful commitment to her husband, despite the efforts of suitors to marry her and seize the family’s wealth (Hunt et al. 44). In this respect, both representations of relationships reveal the extent to which the characters according to Homer are different.

In conclusion, Homer’s recollection and transformation of Greek oral traditions into narratives provided a profound way of advancing the literatures’ teachings as intended. However, one unique aspect introduced by Homer involves his inclination towards individuality. In the traditions of The Iliad and The Odyssey, the author creates distinct characters that are differentiated by a number of factors. These aspects include the decisions they make and their results, such as the choice by Nestor and Agamemnon in urging Achilles to engage in the war, and the latter’s unexpected decision to abandon the war. Consequently, Homer’s representation of individuality is illustrated by the effect of emotions in gauging humanity, as evidenced by Hector’s unnerving request to transport his or Achilles’ corpse to their respective families, and lastly, the existence and effect of relationships between Priam and his son, Hector, as well as Odysseus, and his wife, Penelope.  

Works Cited

Homer. The Iliad. Ed. Richmond Lattimore. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. Print.

Hunt, Lynn, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara H. Rosenwein, R. Po-chia Hsia, and Bonnie G. Smith. The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.

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