Writing Assignment – Week 8

Upon awakening from his night with Hera, Zeus lays out the basic plot points for the rest of the epic (15.49-77). How does this narrative foretelling relate to Prof. Nagy’s argument about the importance, to the epic, of the will of Zeus? Further, in what ways is this sort of ‘spoiler’ a different narrative tactic from modern storytelling? Be sure to support your claims with specific citations from and references to the text (both in this scroll and others).

14 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 8

  1. Joseph Reid

    Zeus’s will is a very big one and his decisions basically decide what happens in the Iliad, being that he is the god of all gods. In Book 15, he wakes up to see the Trojans in full flight, with his brother Poseidon leading the Greek pursuit across the plain, while poor old Hector sits spitting blood. He instantly blames Hera. He reminds her how he strung her up that time and left her to hang with weights lashed to her feet. She was sorry and will make it up to him. She even offers to call Poseidon off, but Zeus has a better plan, which was to get rid of Poseidon and deliver victory to the Trojans. In (lines 56-61), Zeus says “So that Iris may go among the bronze-armoured people of the Achaians, and give a message to lord Poseidon to leave the fighting and come back to the home that is his. Also let Phoibos Apollo stir Hektor back into battle, breathe strength into him once more, and make him forget the agonies that now are wearing out his senses”. What Zeus basically says in these lines is that he will send Hera to tell Iris to tell Poseidon to go home. Apollo is to use his skills to get Hector healed and up and fighting, so the Greeks will panic and flee. Achilles will send Patroclus into battle, and he will kill Sarpedon, his own son. Then Hector will kill Patroclus and no more gods are to intervene and fight until Zeus’s promise to Thetis is fulfilled, and Achilles’ wishes are met. Zeus’s power also frightens his own wife Hera. Athena knows this as Hera provokes Ares. Athena reminds Ares that if Zeus is really angered, guilty and innocent alike will suffer. This sort of spoiler is a different narrative tactic from modern storytelling because in modern storytelling the events fold out without the readers knowing what’s going to happen. But in this tactic, the readers know what’s going to happen but kind of have to figure it out for their selves and see if Zeus was right.

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    1. Jerome Lawrence

      Good post classmate, just like the post below where you and Rashaad made. I want to speak further on the narrative style. Homer drops spoilers really early in his Iliad but I think that it was needed. Whenever I, a reader, read the Iliad and I see people fighting and dying in battle who I never heard of before and had of knowing their status, relationship and overall purpose of being in the Iliad, some spoiler to keep me interested in reading more of the Iliad is needed. I know that you and others from our class agree that the Iliad becomes repetitve a lot of times. Some son of someone else who was never mentioned before and is not mentioned again is always dying. This happens over and over. Imagine reading this and not knowing where this is heading and the excitement that is to come, would you continue to read further?

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      1. Cordelia Davies

        I get what you’re saying Jerome. I think that in this particular story, knowing what is going to happen helps to build anticipation. I want to read on further because I want to see if Zeus’ will will come to fruition. I look forward to the confrontation between Patroklos and Hector and then Achilles and Hector and, along the way, other events, such as the confrontation between Patroklos and Sarpedon, threaten to change the direction of the story: they threaten to change the will of Zeus. The will of Zeus has continued to change throughout the poem and it proves that mortals do have some control. They act on their own, changing the outcome of events and having significant impact on the will and actions of immortals

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        1. Chris Grass

          Cordelia, I think you bring up a good point about wanting to see if Zeus’ intent will actually come to life as he explains. Throughout the Iliad we see that the gods are very fickle, and seem to arbitrarily change their minds. There are also instances where the gods initially stand for one thing and then are tricked, coerced or bribed into doing another. Specifically I am thinking about how Sleep initially told Hera that he would not use his powers on Zeus for fear of his wraith but then decides that Zeus’ wraith is worth enduring if he can marry the woman he wants to. In the Iliad it seems that just because a god devises a plan or strategy doesn’t mean that it is fully executed. Although, Zeus is clearly the leader of the gods he is not entirely infallible and I think this is evidenced at the beginning of book 15 when he is caught sleeping and wakes up to find his will is not being fulfillied.

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        2. Alyssa Sohns

          I think that one reason for these kind of spoilers is the fact that this story was told orally, and as we all know it is quite lengthy. I can image that listening to someone tell the story for hours could get quite boring, so some spoilers that would make the story not as long and drawn out, as you could anticipate some events that were going to come up.

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      2. Bailey Allen

        Its interesting that you find the fact that Zeus lets us know whats going to happen as building the anticipation. Personally, I prefer books where I don’t guess the ending, and having it told to me before hand ruins it. I’d also like to note that the Iliad is part of the larger story of the trojan war, which would have been well known. Its sort of the Disney movie to the fairy tale, people already knew the story but perhaps the interpretation was interesting and new. Therefore, I assume that the purpose of including the “spoiler” in the narrative was nit for the reader, but the characters. Hera wanted the Greeks to win, and in order to make her quit interfering, Zeus lets her know whats going to happen. Admittedly, I appreciated the “don’t worry, something interesting is coming” to get me through all the random people dying as well.

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        1. Alyssa Sohns

          I love that you related it to Disney, that’s exactly what I was thinking! By knowing any history or mythology the story would already be spoiled, but you wouldn’t necessarily know the details, more just the whole picture. There are so many different interpretations of all different kinds of myths, so maybe the spoilers that Homer gave in his version were not taken at full value all the time, as people may not thing it would happen according to a version they had heard of previously.

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  2. Rashaad Sewell

    Zeus is the ruler of the gods. He has absolute control over the eventual destinies of humans, but other gods can influence Zeus in the short term, or even interfere with his intentions. The will of Zeus always prevails, despite any efforts of the other gods to change it. The will of Zeus plays an important part in the events of The Iliad. Zeus’ will is infallible, and so, in a way, the events that occur are all destined to happen. Zeus foreshadowing the future in the Iliad is a narrative style that is different from modern story telling. What zeus says will eventually happen, but in modern narrative the readers would have to run into the climax of the story therefore the major events will just happen without warning.

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    1. Joseph Reid

      Great post rashaad, zeus does have control over the destinies of humans, but although other gods can influence zeus in the short term, i think they have little to no effect on his will because he is just too powerful. I agree that Zeus’s will is infalliable to the point that his will frightens other gods. I like how you concluded comparing zeus’s will to a modern narrative wherein a modedrn narrative “the readers would have to run into the climax of the story therefore the major effects will just happen without warning”.

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      1. Jerome Lawrence

        Well done, classmates. Where in the Iliad has a god or goddess went against Zeus and found happiness in the long run? In earlier books, Hera and Athena tried to aid the Achaians although Zeus told the gods not too. Those plans did not end well as Zeus’ will prevailed in the end. The spoiler narrative is definitely different from modern narrative styles. Most narratives avoid this kind of style because if the reader knows everything that will happen and why, then the reader may stop reading if the story drags on in a predictable way. Rashaad made an interesting point when he said that major events will happen without warning. I think this style entices the reader by giving a little spoiler but not the whole story behind a specific event or what the character was thinking right before or while the event is happen. For example, most persons know that Achilles will gain kleos, but here are the events that lead up to and influence Achilles to go back into battle. Patroklos is going into battle. A reader may now say to himself/herself, “Oh that is the motive that would get Achilles into battle, although he said he refuses to aid the Achaians when Agamemnon sent Aias to ask him to fight for them.”

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      2. Cordelia Davies

        In response to your post Joseph about immortals having little to no effect on Zeus’ will: it seems we almost had the chance to see if his will could be truly challenged by Poseidon, but after acting very proud and honorable and standing his ground, he backed down quickly after Iris tried to convince him to surrender to Zeus’ will (though it seemed she didn’t even try that hard.) I do wonder what the outcome would have been. Poseidon seems to think that him and Zeus are completely equal despite the fact that Zeus is older than him. So he claims that they are equal and we know that he feels strongly about the Achaians’ cause. After having already come this far and having outright disobeyed Zeus, why did he back down? Perhaps he felt he had already changed the course of events. Maybe he knew that Zeus decided to let Hektor be slain by Achilles and Ilion be sacked by the remaining Achaians.

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        1. Bailey Allen

          While what Zeus wants certainly comes to pass, you have a point, Poseidon did affect events, and the whole plot of the Iliad was brought on by Thetis asking Zeus for her son’s glory. So in effect, what is actually occurring is the will of Thetis through Zeus. She also knew that her son was going to die soon, but asked Zeus to save his honor, not his life. Either honor was deemed far more important in the Greek society, or even Zeus could not save his life. Both points make it doubtful that Zeus is as all powerful as he seems. Also, the Iliad and many ancient Greek myths follow patterns, such as the patterns of laments or the way the battles are described, or repeated phrases such as “winged words” or “swift footed” or the similes about lions repeated through the poem. This contrasts with modern literature and movies in that today people look for plot twists, creativity, and unpredictability in their stories rather than patterns. If patterns were important, than perhaps predictability was not the shameful thing for stories that it is today, and the fact that Zeus tells the audience whats going to happen isn’t a big deal.

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          1. Chris Grass

            Bailey you bring up very good points, specifically about the importance of patterns. In poetry repetition is common and is sometimes necessary to ensure that they conventions of a certain style is followed. In some instances not following these conventions is substantially more jarring than not knowing the events in advance. The “spoiling” seems to occur on a regular basis whether it’s letting us know a character will die soon, outlining the will of zeus, or letting us know a character is a major influencer (I’m thinking about how the Iliad opens discussing the wraith of Achilles even though he does not play a major role the early parts of the book).

  3. Shukura McGhee

    Hey guys, I know I’m jumping in late. I see a lot of good comments; it’s interesting to see all of our points of view surrounding the text. Alyssa, you hit the nail on the head. Because the Iliad is an oral epic, Homer has to be very descriptive and even a bit repetitive to paint a full picture for his audience and keep them engaged. I love the comments likening the Iliad to a classic fairytale. This tale had been stamped into society and was probably a great source of pride and tradition for the Grecian people.
    That being said, I wouldn’t call the transparency of the plot a “spoiler”. If you read closely, you’ll notice that Zeus is the first to lay out the full course of the epic for us; after which, characters only come in to knowing upon him sharing the fate of the warriors. Homer consistently highlights Zeus’ power. The greatest example of that for the audience is to watch on as his will is exacted in the throughout the course of the epic. The text reinforces Zeus as the all-knowing author of fates. I believe that this epic is just as much about the power that Zeus possesses just as much as it is about the wrath of Achilles.
    Homer’s method of storytelling is a stark contrast to that of modern literature. Today’s novels are full of suspenseful edge of the seat moments that keep the reader guessing. I suppose that literature has evolved overtime due to the various advances in technology and communication. In catering to a modern audience and competing with television, writers fight to get a reader’s attention and keep them engaged throughout the course of the story.

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