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The Character of Helen of Troy in the Iliad and the Odyssey

This research will examine the character of Helen of Troy in the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer. The research will show that though the environment and scenario of each work are different, Homer's portrayal of Helen is consistent in each. The possibly apocryphal tradition that one blind poet, Homer, is the author of both the Iliad and the Odyssey can be set beside the fact that the two epic poems, undoubtedly related by continuity of narrative, make use of a common mythic foundation that is shared by a significant literary culture. The narrative lines of one epic do not point for point complete the narrative lines of the other, although that is in general terms the case. Undoubtedly there is a difference between the Iliad and Odyssey, connected as they are, in the transformation of poetic vision from one of tragic heroism and lack of it on a grand scale to one of individual rebirth and closure (Porter 2), or from tragedy to romantic adventure (Rieu vii). The Iliad sends the Greeks abroad in the world, and the Odyssey brings at least some of them back home. The resolution of the Odyssey is generally favorable, at least for Odysseus and family, though fraught with peril all along the way.

One individual who, like Odysseus, does come home is Helen, whose legendary beauty, sometimes attributed to her being the offspring of Zeus as Swan and Leda, literally dazzles all men and whose disappearance with Paris caused all the trouble. She is a relatively minor character, appearing in person toward the beginning of both works, and at Hector's funeral at the end of the Iliad. Yet Helen is the locus of narrative unity; gods and warriors know very well during the Iliad (and remember very well in the Odyssey) that her presence in Troy cause(d) the war. Rieu (xii) says Helen's psychology is consistent between the works and supports the view that they are written by one poet. Helen's appearances in the texts seem to confirm that.

In the ea...

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