Weekly Journal 9/28
Thursday, September 21st
We had a discussion today on the course Greek Literature and what we are getting out of it. Critical thinking is one, we learn how to interpret deeper meanings and look beneath the surface. Leadership is another thing we get out of it, especially due to our reading of the Iliad and all of the leaders with their good and bad qualities, we learn to embody the good ones. Someone brought up the idea of understanding human behavior and universal archetypes. This relates back to our first day of class when we spoke about life’s five great stories; fictional characters aid us in understanding people in real life and the way they act and think. Dr. S then shared his story with us about why he loves the Iliad and his personal engagement with the text. He compares the Iliad to a friend that you will always engage and come back to. He says “The Iliad is an exploration of what it means to be your best.” He sees Achilles and Patroclus as perfect examples of “The Best”. Achilles is the best Greek warrior and Patroclus is the best friend that anyone could ask for. He even wishes that, like Patroclus, when he dies it will bring people together and they will speak about what a great person he is. For me, the books that I would consider friends to me are John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars”, Wendy Mass’s “Every Soul a Star”, and the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan as well as the Heroes of Olympus series also by Rick Riordan. With the Rick Riordan series, I see them as puzzles, in the same way that Dr. S sees the Iliad and the Odyssey as puzzles. One cannot exist without the other, and when the series is done with, like puzzles, you feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, but also a sense of emptiness because it is over. The beauty in that is that you can always start the puzzle again. These books I can read and reread and reread again and never get sick of them. They are all marked up because I read them all the time and they are my absolute favorites. They are friends to me because they are always there for me in any time of need and I can always count on them to make me happy.
Sunday, September 24th
Today I will read books 18–20 of Homer’s “The Iliad”. Book 18 is when Achilles learns of the death of his friend Patroclus and he is absolutely heartbroken. He rubs dirt and grime all over his body and pulls his hair out and lets out terrible cries. Antilochos even hold Achilles’ hands in fear that he will use a piece of iron to cut his own throat. In hearing his cries, Achilles’ mother, Thetis comes and holds his head while he cries, almost like an infant, while he tells her what is wrong. In my opinion, there is no one proper reaction to the death of a friend. Achilles reacted with anger, sadness, and overwhelming grief. People grieve in different ways and one way that works for one person may not work for another. In my opinion the grieving process definitely involves sadness and possibly anger, then at some point there has to be some sort of acceptance. When I experience the death of a loved one, I feel the best way to grieve is to remember all of the times you spent together and honor their legacy. Just because someone has passed away does not mean they are truly gone. The way Achilles is grieving, however, does not seem healthy to me. Refusing meals and only pushing on due to revenge is not a proper way to grieve because you are ignoring yourself in the process. Homer has prepared us for Achilles’ reaction to the death of Patroclus because we saw the extreme way he reacted to something trivial in comparison to death at the beginning of the story. He is someone who puts all of their heart and emotion into something, seeing how he acted when merely disrespected, we can almost expect an extreme reaction to the death of someone close to him, especially someone he sees as a brother. Book 19 is when Achilles’ new armor made by the god Hephaestus comes to him. Just like when Patroclus donned his armor and same with Hector, when Achilles puts on his armor he seals his own death. And he knows that he is prophesied to die after Hector, and he does not care, the only thing on his mind is getting his revenge. Book 20 is when we finally get to see Achilles in battle. It was definitely worth the wait, he is obviously much stronger than everyone he encounters, there is not even any competition. It makes me wonder why they were at war for all these years when Achilles clearly was capable of taking on the entire Trojan army single-handedly. It is a shame it took Patroclus’ death to bring that power out of him.
Tuesday, September 26th
Today we started class off talking about opening convocation and everyone’s opinions on the protesting that went on. Personally, I feel that everyone has a right to speak their mind and let it be known how they feel. Many students felt that Comey represents white supremacy and oppression of minorities. I feel that Howard should be accepting of students who know what they believe in and speak their mind because that is what we are learning to do here. I understand the anger that many students are feeling, and even more so when they are being silenced by their own school. Howard is supposed to be a community, and in a community you are supposed to lift people up and support them, not actively silence them. Dr. S then asked us to reflect on our favorite character in the Iliad. For me, I would probably say my favorite character is (was?) Patroclus. I say this because he is talked about like a kind soul and there have not been many of those in this book so far. He is the only character who is helpful to others and puts others needs before his own. For example, he begged Achilles for his armor because he knew it would boost morale in the Greek warriors and it could bring them closer to ending the war. He is selfless, caring, and thoughtful and those are qualities that I appreciate in others. My partner in this exercise , Allaine, said that her favorite character was Achilles. In the conversation that we had, I think he is her favorite because she is the kind of person who appreciates those who stand up and speak out for what they believe in. Achilles definitely does not back down when he believes in something until he has gotten his point across. We saw that in the beginning when he left the battle due to his argument with Agamemnon, and we are seeing it now with his quest of revenge and killing Hector. Personally, I think that Achilles is a bit of a crybaby. He should have re-entered the war when Agamemnon initially reached out and apologized to him, if he had done that then maybe his best friend would still be alive. The thing that shocked me the most was when someone revealed that their favorite character was Agamemnon, because in my opinion he is not a favorable character. He is selfish and does not display and leadership qualities, even though he is in a leadership position. However, when she explained it, I kind of understood where she was coming from. She said that he is her favorite character because she believes that he has an opportunity for growth.
Wednesday, September 27th
Today I read book 21 of Homer’s “The Iliad”. This book follows Achilles and his menis as he goes through killing Trojan warriors. He has no mercy on anyone that crosses his path. We are asked this week to describe our feelings for Hector as “The Iliad” progresses. When we first encountered him, I had no extreme feelings about him, I was just indifferent. When we started getting into the depths of the battle he was just an annoying person to me. Then, when he killed Patroclus I really didn’t like him. However, after reading this book and seeing Achilles ruthlessly kill all of these men without a second thought, I almost feel bad for Hector. Achilles will stop at nothing to see him fall and Hector knows this. Also, I know that killing Hector will not make Achilles feel any better about the death of his friend. It got me thinking that maybe Achilles is so eager to kill Hector because he knows that his death is destined to happen right after. When loved ones die, many people cannot even bear the thought of living without them. I feel that maybe Achilles just wants to be with his best friend. But, with that, I know that Hector needs to die in order for the Trojan War to end and to live out the will of Zeus. But mostly I feel bad for Hector’s wife, Andromache. We encountered her a couple of books ago when Hector went to visit her and his mother. It was clear that if Hector was not living, then Andromache wouldn’t be either. He is her only lifeline and support system and without him she and their son will not be in a very good place.