Heroism is a valued concept that has transcended through time and has been the subject of a great deal of literature. David Malouf’s appropriation of Homers epic The Iliad explores this notion of heroism through the characterization of King Priam, directly battling the contextual hero of the time, Achilles. Through descriptive language and stylistic conventions, Malouf showcases that it is the emotional and physical struggle that a man must face to ultimately attain glory, thus becoming a hero. This statement is epitomized through the contrasting protagonists Priam and Achilles, who are both sequentially transformed through their metaphysical journey. Malouf has deliberately structured his text in separate books, to take the readers on a journey, mapping their path to glory whilst teaching us the importance of the ordinary hero.
Classically, a hero demonstrates qualities of endurance, bravery and physical prowess, epitomized by Achilles at the start of the novel. Malouf initially celebrates Achilles as a hero, being “blessed” by the Gods with supernatural abilities and a “brooding presence”, which intimidates the entire Trojan army. However, while Achilles’s training and apparent destiny is to attain glory and die “a hero’s death”, Malouf soon reveals his dissatisfaction and emotional struggle with his current disposition. In the context of Patroclus’s death and loss of family Achilles’s thumos overwhelms him, this grief accentuated through the repetition of “wept”. His killing of Hector sets his spirit “off on its own downward path” a metaphor portraying the similar downward path he experiences at this part of his journey. This search for salvation leads him to drag the body of Hector around the walls of Troy, juxtaposing his former honour,