Homer uses tone, imagery, epithets, and similes to describe Paris’ character. Outwardly, Paris is a brave person, but inwardly, he is full of doubts and fears. He is like a stallion that has been pampered too much, a child who is allowed to get everything he wants. Because of his attitude, he starts the Trojan War and brings on the fall of Troy. Paris is portrayed in this passage as being a walking contradiction. He appears to be a hero, but is one of the causes of the war because he kidnapped Helen for his own selfish interests.
Homer uses the contradictions in Paris’ behavior to suggest the ironic contrasts in his character. For example, in line 40, after seeing his formidable opponent Atrides, he “dissolve[s] again in the proud Trojan lines, dreading Atrides—magnificent, brave Paris. ” At first glance, he appears very afraid, hardly the hero he is supposed to be. He “dissolves,” as Homer describes it, a verb choice which implies fragmentation of attitude or feeling. It is as if his famed hero’s will were itself disintegrating on the battlefield.
Homer uses the epithet “proud” to modify the Trojan lines, an adjective that intensifies the effect of Paris’ action of retreating by mentioning its opposite. Homer further reviles Paris by calling him, ironically, “magnificent” and “brave,” thereby heightening the indignity of his cowardly retreat. Another contrast in Paris’ character is represented in his beauty. He is known as one of the most handsome men in Troy, but looks can be deceiving, as Hector implies when he says, “Paris, appalling Paris!
Our prince of beauty–/mad for women, you lure them all to ruin! ” In this quote, Hector is highlighting Paris’ ability to ruin virtually everyone’s future. After all, Hector’s comment suggests, he is not only an unrepentant heartbreaker, but also a self-centered catalyst for the war. Hector specifically describes Paris as “appalling” and, in another ironic twist, juxtaposes this idea with Paris’s unofficial title as the reigning “prince of beauty.
This contradiction allows these apparently unlike ideas to be embodied in one person—the complicated Paris. On the inside, Paris is “appalling,” i. e. , in this context, morally corrupt, although on the outside, his surface is pleasing. Describing Paris’ action of “strutting,” and moreover, denouncing this action as “a mockery,” Hector emphasizes the extreme shallowness of Paris’ pleasing appearance. Through Hector’s quote, Homer uses informal diction with a satirical tone to accentuate the contrasts in Paris’ character.
The language is very informal, even brutally honest, because it is between two brothers. The realistic bantering between the brothers makes this exchange and the emotional issues it addresses seem more authentic than the formal, set speeches exchanged by Achilles and Agamemnon in Book I. Another facet of Paris’ character comes across in the long epic simile comparing Paris to a stallion. It describes Paris “[a]s a stallion full-fed at the manger,” a description which implies that his masculine qualities of valor, pride, and potency.
However, “full-fed” and “stalled too long” suggest the opposite, that he is overfull of himself and his riches as well as lazy, unused to toil of any kind. While the actions of “breaking free” and taking a “plunge” connote daring and adventure, these hints are negated by self-indulgent quality registered in “favorite” and “cool currents. ” It is as if he were not drawn to adventure, but merely seeking out the familiar and comfortable. Even his “breaking free” becomes trivial because, like a spoiled child, he refuses discipline of any kind.