On Achilles’s Growth into a Sympathetic Character in the Iliad

Before Book XXIV of Homer’s Iliad, Achilles spends most of his time, first, sulking in his tent while his Achaean companions die in battle against the Trojans, then battling in a crazed frenzy to avenge his dead friend (and possibly lover) Patroclus.

It is arguably only in the twenty-fourth and final book of the Iliad that Achilles becomes a sympathetic hero, for it is there that he transcends his overblown ego and selfish “rage” and learns, for the first time, how to feel compassion for another human being. The reader cannot help being deeply moved when he breaks down and weeps alongside Priam, the very man whose sons he had killed (Iliad 24.592-648).

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