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Episode 4: Complex Heroes (World Lit)

When Tristan walked into his World Literature class, he was surprised to see Dan and Cynthia there early sitting beside one another. She appeared to be explaining something to the big guy and pointing towards the open textbook before Dan, who was nodding in acknowledgement. Tristan paused for a moment, observing their interaction. He had never really picked up on it before, but the two of them had started to become friendlier over the past few weeks.

While her sarcasm and teasing never seemed to let up, Dan had gradually become less defensive towards it. Conversely, whenever he seemed to struggle with what Homer was saying as they read The Iliad, Cynthia was quick to assist him. Tristan knew firsthand that Dan was a proud, stubborn boy and wasn’t fond of asking for help, but he had begun to let his guard down, and there were even times when he actually asked Cynthia for aid. Initially, this had bothered Tristan, however, looking at his two friends before him, Tristan couldn’t help but smile, realizing that perhaps there was something there he had missed all along.

Soon after taking his seat beside them, Tristan focused his attention to the front of the room, where Professor Meulman was continuing his lesson on complex characters:

“As you all have read, one of the main things that makes The Iliad such a compelling poem by Homer is the fact that it contains so many rich, complex characters, none more so than the mighty Achilles and the noble Hector. Achilles was viewed as a courageous, loyal, inspiring warrior, foremost among the Greeks, while Hector was depicted as a peace-loving, thoughtful, and bold warrior himself, foremost among the Trojans. Two legendary warriors, locked on either side of a war neither want to be involved in. In any other life, they would have been best friends. But such was not their fate. The result is tragedy for both men, although each remain in high regard even at their end.”

“How is it that we, as an audience, develop such emotions towards these two men? How are we to choose a side, decide on a stance, when we are given two characters such as these? Is there even a correct answer? Today we are going to look into breaking down these two men and discover how Homer made them such memorable figures. As we do, perhaps it will allow you all to see the complex characters in your own lives and perhaps realize that not everyone is as cut and dry as we make them out to be.”

For the next hour, the class dissected the characters of Achilles and Hector, from their personalities to their flaws, trying to determine which hero they would side on. The result, as expected, was mixed amongst the students, and based on his grin, Tristan figured this was what Professor Meulman had wanted. Sometimes there was no right answer, Meulman explained at the end. Sometimes both sides can be right and still wind up with a tragic ending. At the end of the day, right or wrong, it all came down to perspective. When the class finally ended, Tristan was fairly certain his headache had gotten worse in intensity.   



Photo by DAVIDCOHEN on Unsplash

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