1. What does Ransom suggest about leadership and the difficulties leaders face?
Achilles is wrapped in this “clogging grey web” of grief that traps him and stains his image as a leader. Achilles finds it difficult to put the death of his brother Patroclus behind him. For him, this grief is so constricting, like the metaphor of the “web” suggests that after eleven days it still ‘torments him’. And this does indeed affect his ability to lead the Greek army. The quote the “swiftness of foot” highlights his strong image as a godlike warrior is immediately undermined by the fact his “spirit” “deserted” him moments after Patroclus’s death. Achilles warrior and leader attitude deteriorates so does his identity. Achilles servants stress that they “no longer know what authority they are under”. They are questioning his ability to lead. The traditional leader is one that is the country or city’s ceremonial figurehead that is powerful and therefore shows no emotion. For Priam, such a role is indeed heavy. To overcome his personal grief, he knows he must be “stripped of all distractions” of power. The use of “distractions” suggests Priam knows that he has to “do what is most human” to lead, rather than hide behind the walls of his palace. Priam’s role is holding him from finding out who he really is, and such a problem is highlighted as he questions his council that isn’t it “time” that he is able to “explore” the pleasures of humanity. Here Priam’s struggle to find his identity as a human even though he knows that the God’s made him “a king” as well as “a man”, thus his role as a leader has bottled-up the “man” inside of him.
2. Explain the messages provided in Ransom about revenge and forgiveness.
After Patroclus’s death, Achilles hunts down Hector to avenge his best-friends’ early death. Although he is successful in murdering Hector, Achilles does not follow the custom of leaving the body for the grieving family to bury. Instead, Achilles feels the need to mutilate the body day after day without any sense of remorse or regret. His additional need to inflict harm on Hector’s body indicates that revenge will not bring will closure. His sense of loss is shown as he reflects feeling empty inside, to the point where he no longer feels like himself, but someone else altogether. Although Achilles and Priam ultimately find peace in themselves, many years later Achille’s son Neoptolemus murders Priam bound with the same hatred and pain depicted by Achilles. Neoptolemus’ subsequent guilt and regret is carried with him throughout the rest of his life, demonstrating that again revenger is no the answer to any problem.
3. “The opportunity to act for ourselves. To try something that might force events into a different course.”
What does Ransom suggest about opportunities for change?
Ransom suggests that some characters experience changes and adapt it. We see this with Priam going through the change from rich and royalty to poor looking. Priam had gotten his privileges taken away from when his jewels and royal robes were taken off. The reason why he wishes to be dressed plainly is because he doesn’t want to be a ‘king, but as an ordinary man, a father to beg to Achilles humbly, on my knees if that is what it comes to, to give me back the body of my son. However, Hecuba is angered by Priam’s epiphany and is not persuaded by ‘this touching pantomime’. She hisses that Achilles had broken his vow to Hector prior to their deathly match – that neither one would insult the loser’s body after the battle. Though he respects Hecuba’s words, Priam insists that he has at least attempt to save Hector’s body. ‘I have had a good sixty years now to consider the splendour and limitations of what it is to be a king.’ He has a chance to reflect on his life and how he’s taken everything for granted, after he was appointed king after his harsh upbringing as a slave. Despite being a king, he was first a man during his tome being a slave, ‘It is true that the gods made me a king, but they also made me a man, and mortal’, he’s had to change the way he looks, acts and presents himself to hide his weaknesses, but to show a sense of pride being a king.