‘Priam’s quest shows that there are greater acts of courage than those achieved in battle’. Discuss.
The novel Ransom challenges our understanding of what it means to be heroic. David Malouf shows that there are greater acts of courage than those achieved in battle. He argues that it takes great courage to break free of convention and expectation. Both Priam and Achilles are expected to behave in a certain way. They have become symbols to the people who surround them, images of the ideal king and the ideal warrior. Priam’s bold decision to put aside this royal image allows both men to achieve a sense of peace and freedom. As the reader follows Priam’s quest they are introduced to Somax the carter and the women who prepare Hector’s body for burial. Through these characters, Malouf shows us that ordinary people, those who live and work away from the battlefield, are also capable of performing extraordinary acts of bravery.
One of the greatest acts of bravery in the novel is Priam’s decision to accept the fact that he lives in a world that is “subject to chance”. The people Priam ruled over were deeply religious. Priam himself believed that “the gods made [him] a king”. When he tells Hecuba that there might be “another way of naming what we call fortune and attribute to the will, or the whim, of the gods”, he goes against centuries of tradition. Malouf uses Hecuba’s reaction to emphasise the shocking nature of this suggestion. She can’t even bring herself to use the word “chance” and instead refers to it as “this idea you’re so taken with”. She warns him that if it were published, such a notion could lead to widespread panic and potentially destroy the “order” he has worked so hard to create. Despite these warnings, Priam holds firm and tells the assembled court that he is going to venture out into “a world of change and accident”. While it is possible to argue that Priam is acting under divine instruction – it is Iris, after all, who whispers the...
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