The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
“The Song of Achilles” was published in 2012. It is a tender and heartbreaking rendition of Homer’s “Iliad,” depicting the love tale of the demigod Achilles and his friend, Patroclus, from their childhood together until the Trojan War. Patroclus tells the storey in the first person and addresses the themed of Greek mythology, such as fate’s immutability and the thirst for glory.The Song of Achilles was awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012.
There are both the niceties and the problems that surrounded Achilles and Patroclus’ friendship, particularly during the battle. Despite the fact that the two love each other, they must confront the surrounding difficulties during their time together.
Those who have read the original poem, “Iliad,” will recognise how both the poem and this novel end, although Miller has infused the narrative with her own flair.
Patroclus begins the storey by detailing his birth and early childhood. Patroclus, King Menoitius’s little and abused son, is a disappointment to his father. Patroclus, a nine-year-old boy, is invited to Tyndareus’ court as a suitor for his daughter Helen’s hand in marriage by Menoitius. Despite the fact that Patroclus’ plea is obviously denied, he is forced to swear a blood promise to protect Helen’s marriage.
Patroclus is exiled when he is 10 years old for accidently killing a nobleman’s child. His exile brings him to Phthia, where he meets King Peleus’ son Achilles and a nymph named Thetis. Patroclus attracts Achilles’ attention and introduces him to a buddy. The two become closer as they enter adolescence, and their bond blossoms into romance.
Thetis, on the other hand, is opposed to their relationship. She believes that a person of such obscurity would be inappropriate as a companion for her son, who is destined for greatness. She whisks Achilles away to train with Chiron, a centaur who trained Heracles and other Greek heroes. Patroclus joins Achilles on his journey, and the two lads spend two years studying with Chiron together.
When Helen of Sparta is kidnapped, Achilles is sent to distant Troy to fulfil his destiny as the most glorious warrior the world has ever known in the Trojan War. Patroclus follows, torn between love and terror for his comrade, unaware that the years ahead will put everything they hold dear to the test.
Each sentence in the novel is written in a lyrical manner. Miller has the ability to craft phrases that read like bits of poetry while yet advancing the tale and giving greater meaning to the novel’s primary characters.
As the narrative unfolds, each character, particularly Achilles and Patroclus, is given depth and room to develop. This makes them not only likeable, but also relatable, despite the fact that Miller has placed these people in a time period thousands of years ago.
Readers will understand and relate to Achilles’ and Patroclus’ dilemma: how to love sincerely and fiercely in the face of misfortune.
“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth.” Miller wrote, “I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”
What distinguishes Miller’s portrayal of Achilles and Patroclus is her ability to develop these characters subtly and convincingly throughout the tale.
Both Achilles and Patroclus are different men by the end of the storey, shaped by many years of love and success, but also tribulation and ruin.
Despite the fact that this work is beautifully written, has intriguing characters, and has homosexual and POC representation, I could not fully grasp the social media hoopla that has recently surrounded it.
Some events are entirely missing or are swiftly glossed over, such as Iphigenia’s sacrifice during the war, which is completed with one sentence, “We were horrified and angry,” Miller wrote of the moment.
Though I recognise that not every event can have pages of prose devoted to it, the Trojan War was glossed over for years and years. I believe Miller did this to limit the war and create way for the story’s end while keeping the novel at a manageable length.
When Patroclus, the novel’s narrator and protagonist, is slain around three-fourths of the way through, Miller is compelled to adopt an unusual narrative voice, which does not always work. Miller makes an uncomfortable shift into this new narrative voice, which ultimately confuses readers.
Miller has talent, but I do not think her writing is deft enough to handle this change and end the novel in a satisfactory, beautiful, and homage to Homer’s original work.
Still, Miller’s “The Song of Achilles” is a novel I would suggest since it is a lovely and innovative reimagining of a great Greek work.
Plot Summary of The Song of Achilles
Madeline Miller’s popular novel The Song of Achilles retells the events of Homer’s Iliad. The novel, which was published in 2012, reimagines the relationship between the legendary Greek Trojan war heroes Achilles and Patroclus. Patroclus tells the storey in the first person and addresses topics central to Greek mythology, such as fate’s immutability and the thirst for glory.
Patroclus begins the storey by detailing his birth and early childhood. Patroclus, King Menoitius’s little and abused son, is a disappointment to his father. Patroclus, a nine-year-old boy, is invited to Tyndareus’ court as a suitor for his daughter Helen’s hand in marriage by Menoitius. Despite the fact that Patroclus’ plea is obviously denied, he is forced to swear a blood oath to protect Helen’s marriage.
Patroclus is exiled when he is 10 years old for accidently killing a nobleman’s child. His exile brings him to Phthia, where, he meets Achilles, son of Phthia’s king Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis. Patroclus develops feelings for Achilles and they become great friends. Thetis, convinced that a low-status mortal is an unfit companion for her son, sends Achilles to train under Chiron for two years, however Patroclus eventually joins Achilles in his training. The Myceanean king Agamemnon calls on the numerous Achaeans to join his military assault against Troy, whose prince Paris has kidnapped his brother Menelaus’ wife Helen as their connection intensifies. Because a prophecy states that Achilles will die at Troy after killing the Trojan prince Hector, Thetis disguises Achilles as a woman in King Lycomedes’ court and forces him to marry Lycomedes’ daughter Deidamia, who bears Achilles’ son Neoptolemus.
Patroclus accompanies Achilles to Skyros, where they stay until Odysseus and Diomedes find them. As a result of his blood pledge, Patroclus is forced to join the war in Troy, while Achilles joins after pledging never to confront Hector in order to prevent his prophesied death. Tensions between Achilles and Agamemnon develop once he joins the Achaean forces: first, when Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to appease Artemis, and later, when Achilles captures the Trojan woman Briseis as a war prize to save her from Agamemnon. Agamemnon claims Chryseis after nine years. Her father Chryses offers to pay for her release soon after, but Agamemnon refuses. When Agamemnon resists Achilles’ demand to restore Chryseis, he doubles down by blaming Achilles for the war’s length and his refusal to face and kill Hector. As a punishment, he orders that Briseis be seized from Achilles and brought to him, which enrages Achilles, who pledges to withdraw himself and his troops from the battle until this betrayal of his honour is rectified.
To hasten the Greeks’ need for Achilles, Thetis persuades Zeus to tip the conflict in favour of the Trojans, causing the Achaeans to regret their enmity with Achilles and suffering enormous losses. Tensions between Achilles and Patroclus increase when Achilles refuses to accept a private deal in which Briseis and valuable gifts are returned to him. He refuses to help the Greeks who are on the point of defeat, insisting on a public apology.
Patroclus, a field medic who has gotten close to the warriors and sympathises with their losses, tries but fails to persuade Achilles to resume the battle. Instead, Patroclus dresses up as Achilles and leads his warriors into combat, forcing the Trojans to retreat. Apollo causes Patroclus to unveil himself during the combat. Hector kills Patroclus and brings his body to Achilles.
Achilles shares Briseis’ grief and requests that Patroclus’ ashes be blended with his own when he dies. Achilles returns to fight, having lost his desire to live, and kills Hector in order to revenge Patroclus. His ashes are combined with Patroclus’ and buried when he is killed by Paris. When Briseis rejects Neoptolemus’ overtures and discloses Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship, Neoptolemus kills her. The Achaeans build a tomb for Achilles and Patroclus, but refuse to inscribe Patroclus’ name at Neoptolemus’ request. As a result, Patroclus’ shade is unable to enter the underworld and is confined to the tomb. Thetis arrives after the fight and weeps for Achilles. After sharing memories with Patroclus, Thetis gives in and writes Patroclus’ name on the tomb. Patroclus is now able to enter the afterlife, where he will be reunited with Achilles.
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