The Iliad

In Homer's Iliad, the character Helen plays a very significant role in the poem. For she is the reason why the great war amongst the Greeks and the Trojans are being fought. In this essay I would like to explore how Helen is the symbol of passion and sexuality. I hope to fully establish that passion is the driving force in this poem.

Helen is Menelaos' wife, Paris steals her out of their home. This is very significant because it is the meaning behind the war. Paris went in the home of Menelaos and stole his possessions. One of which is Helen. Helen in turn, is forced to live as Paris' wife/lover. Helen is supposedly the most beautiful, most desired woman in the world. Paris is unable to resist the beauty and the desire of Helen, which explains Paris' motive for taking her.

It is never made clear in the text if Helen is a willing accomplice to Paris' scheme or if she is a resisting victim of the kidnapping. When Helen is speaking with Hektor she says to him, "Brother/ by marriage to me, who am a nasty bitch evil-intriguing, / how I wish that on that day when my mother first bore me/ the foul whirlwind of the storm had caught me away and swept me/ to the mountain, or into the wash of the sea deep-thundering/ where the waves would have swept me away before all of these things/ had happened  (6.343-349)#. Helen's constant references to herself as a bitch or a prostitute forces us to see her as a victim.

When Paris and Menelaos battle for Helen, Paris looses the duel, but is saved by Aphrodite and is whisked away to his bedroom in Troy. Helen attempts to reject Paris by announcing that she will have nothing more to do with him. But when Aphrodite threatens her, she immediately give in and goes to bed with Paris. Paris responds to Helen by saying, "Come, then, rather let us go to bed and turn to love-making  (4.441).

Page 1 of 3 Next >

Related Essays