Ransom

by

David Malouf

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Achilles Character Analysis

Conventionally described as the greatest warrior to take part in the siege of Troy, Achilles is half-human and half-divine: his father Peleus is a human king, but his mother Thetis is a sea nymph. Ransom refers only indirectly to Achilles’s status as a demigod, but it is clear from the start that Achilles—renowned as he is as a warrior—is not entirely at ease with the world of men. In particular, his affinity with water suggests a longing for the more spiritual and fluid domain of his mother. By the time the novel opens, Achilles’s split identity has been further complicated by the death of his friend Patroclus at the Trojan prince Hector’s hands. Enraged, Achilles in turn killed Hector and attempted to mutilate Hector’s corpse as a way to display his wrath, but was thwarted by the gods, who intervened to protect Hector’s body from injury or decay. With no outlet for his grief or rage, Achilles remains frozen in a state of helpless mourning until the arrival of King Priam in his hut. Priam, who has brought a ransom to exchange for Hector’s body, appeals to Achilles as a fellow human, subject to injury and death. The conversation moves Achilles, releasing him from the burdens of his life as a warrior, and he agrees to Priam’s request. As the novel ends, Achilles has regained his ability to straddle his dual identities and feels that he has become more fully himself, even though he knows that he himself will soon die in battle.

Achilles Quotes in Ransom

The Ransom quotes below are all either spoken by Achilles or refer to Achilles. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Ransom published in 2009.
Part 1 Quotes

The man is a fighter, but when he is not fighting, earth is his element. One day, he knows, he will go back to it…But for the whole of his life he has been drawn, in his other nature, to his mother's element. To what, in all its many forms…is shifting and insubstantial.

Related Characters: Achilles
Related Symbols: Earth and Water
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

He had entered the rough world of men, where a man's acts follow him wherever he goes in the form of a story. A world of pain, loss, dependency, bursts of violence and elation…at last of death.

Related Characters: Achilles
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

For a long moment the taws hang there at the top of their flight; as if, in the father's grave retelling of these events, he were allowing for a gap to be opened where this time round some higher agency might step in and, with the high-handed indifference of those who have infinite power over the world of conjunction and accident, reverse what is about to occur.

Related Characters: Achilles, Patroclus
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

[B1] He was waiting for the rage to fill him that would be equal at last to the outrage he was committing. That would assuage his grief, and be so convincing to the witnesses of this barbaric spectacle that he too might believe there was a living man at the centre of it, and that man himself.

Related Characters: Achilles, Patroclus, Hector
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

He is waiting for the break…Something new and unimaginable as yet that will confront him with the need, in meeting it, to leap clear of the clogging grey web that enfolds him.

Related Characters: Achilles
Page Number: 35–36
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2 Quotes

And perhaps, because it is unexpected, it may appeal to him to: the chance to break free of the obligation of being always the hero, as I am expected always to be the king. To take on the lighter bond of being simply a man. Perhaps that is the real gift I have to bring him. Perhaps that is the ransom.

Related Characters: Priam (speaker), Achilles
Related Symbols: Ransom
Page Number: 59-60
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4 Quotes

He knows what this sudden suspension of his hard, manly qualities denotes. This melting in him of will, of self. Under its aspect things continue to be just themselves, but what is apprehensible to him now is a fluidity in them that on other occasions is obscured.

Related Characters: Achilles
Related Symbols: Earth and Water
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

[Death] is the hard bargain life makes with us—with all of us, every one—and the condition we share. And for that reason, if for no other, we should have pity for one another's losses.

Related Characters: Priam, Achilles, Patroclus, Hector
Related Symbols: Ransom
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

What he feels in himself as a perfect order of body, heart, occasion, is the enactment, under the stars, in the very breath of the gods, of the true Achilles, the one he has come all this way to find.

Related Characters: Achilles, Hector
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the first world we come into, he thinks now, his world of hot-water pitchers and oil jars and freshly laundered linen or wool. And the last place we pass through before our body is done with it all. Unheroic thoughts.

Related Characters: Achilles, Hector
Related Symbols: Earth and Water
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Ransom LitChart as a printable PDF.
Ransom PDF

Achilles Character Timeline in Ransom

The timeline below shows where the character Achilles appears in Ransom. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
As the sun rises, a man—Achilles—stands on the shore looking out over the sea, hoping to hear his mother’s voice. Although... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
Achilles recalls that as a young child, he could easily summon his mother to him, and... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Back in the present, Achilles feels as if he is looking across time as he surveys the sea, and thinks... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
As Achilles walks away from the water and toward the Greek camp, he thinks about how he... (full context)
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Achilles first met his friend Patroclus as a child, when Patroclus was exiled to the court... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Peleus agreed to allow Patroclus to stay, and Patroclus grew up as Achilles’s adoptive brother, shaping the kind of man Achilles himself became. Although Patroclus occasionally resented his... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Now, however, Patroclus himself is dead. Achilles had withdrawn from the fighting at Troy because of an argument with Agamemnon, the leader... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Achilles did nothing but grieve for two days after Patroclus’s death, pouring dirt over his head... (full context)
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After tending to Patroclus’s body, Achilles sought out Hector for a duel to the death. In the ensuing battle, because Hector... (full context)
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The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Back in the present, Achilles returns to the Greek camp, pondering his men as he walks past them. Despite the... (full context)
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Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
As Part 1 closes, the narrator explains that Achilles is a runner—not just in body, but also in spirit. Now, however, he has lost... (full context)
Part 2
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
As Priam continues to wait for the god’s arrival, he recalls the moment he saw Achilles kill Hector and defile his body. Priam ran down to the city gates and poured... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...crying out of a sense of powerless fury that she can do nothing to stop Achilles from further mutilating Hector’s body. As she goes on, describing what it felt like to... (full context)
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Hecuba is disturbed and objects that Achilles will never agree to Priam’s terms, as he already ignored Hector’s request that the winner... (full context)
Part 3
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
...that he has been sent to take them not to the afterlife, but simply to Achilles’s hut. Reassuring Somax that his granddaughter is already recovering from her fever, Hermes tells Priam... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
The cart reaches a trench and blockade, with a gate that only Achilles himself has the strength to open. Inside, the soldiers who are on guard duty hear... (full context)
Part 4
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Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
Inside his hut, Achilles watches listlessly as his men eat, argue, and share memories. His attendant Automedon is nearby,... (full context)
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Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Suddenly, Achilles hears the sound of strings and realizes that a god is in the hut with... (full context)
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Achilles sees a figure, whom he at first mistakes for Patroclus. As the figure approaches, however,... (full context)
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Automedon and Alcimus cry out, and Achilles realizes that the visitor is actually a stranger. Still overwhelmed by the experience of “seeing”... (full context)
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Priam, meanwhile, is unnerved by the sight of Achilles on his knees but manages to explain who he is and why he is there.... (full context)
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The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...his men remain absorbed in their meal, unaware of the "extraordinary" events that are transpiring, Achilles motions for Automedon to bring Somax inside. Although he is not entirely sure that Priam... (full context)
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The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Automedon returns, confirming the presence of the ransom and bringing Somax along with him. Achilles asks Somax whether he is the king’s herald Idaeus, and Somax hesitates, overcome not only... (full context)
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Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...who Somax is and, speaking directly to the carter, thanks him for his service. Meanwhile, Achilles is watching the two men interact with one another, charmed by the fact that neither... (full context)
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Priam begins his appeal, asking Achilles how he would feel if his own son Neoptolemus were in Hector’s place. As Priam... (full context)
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Achilles is taken aback by the mention of his own son, and tries to imagine what... (full context)
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Priam continues to plead with Achilles, asking him to remember that they both share the same basic human nature and, relatedly,... (full context)
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Achilles thinks about what Priam has said, recalling how he felt standing by the ocean that... (full context)
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As Achilles recovers his composure and turns to look at Priam again, he has a vision of... (full context)
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Leaving Priam in the care of his men, Achilles goes to retrieve Hector’s body. Automedon sets up a stool for Achilles to sit on... (full context)
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The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Achilles follows as his grooms take Hector’s body to a laundry room to be washed and... (full context)
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
As dawn approaches, Achilles watches Priam sleep on a makeshift bed in his hut, and thinks about his own... (full context)
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The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Priam finds everything around him dreamlike—particularly Achilles, who is both the feared warrior who killed Priam’s son and the man watching patiently... (full context)
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The narrative skips backward several hours to when Achilles had a hog slaughtered in Priam’s honor. The two men ate dinner together, negotiating a... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Back in the present, Achilles and Priam enter the yard, where the cart is ready to leave. Priam pets Beauty... (full context)
Part 5
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Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Back in the Greek camp, Achilles also feels he has a new lease on life—so much so, in fact, that as... (full context)
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The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...meanwhile, is also frightened—in his case, by all he has to live up to as Achilles’s son. Eventually, Neoptolemus manages to slit Priam’s throat, but he is unnerved when Priam smiles... (full context)
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The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...dip his feet in the River Scamander, and ate a meal given to him by Achilles. His listeners accept the basic truth of his stories—that Priam went to visit Achilles during... (full context)