Ransom

Priam Character Analysis

Priam is the aging King of Troy and the father of Hector, who at the outset of the novel lies dead in the Greek camp after having been defeated in battle by Achilles. At the novel’s outset, Priam is a broken man, mourning not only the loss of his son, but also the loss of his heir and the city’s chief defender: Priam anticipates (correctly) that Troy will not survive long without Hector. In fact, Priam’s malaise runs even deeper than this, because he sees the inevitable fall of his city as a mockery of all that he has tried to achieve in life since nearly being sold into slavery as a child when Heracles sacked Troy. An encounter with the goddess Iris, however, persuades him that there is another way of thinking about his misfortune, and that he might still be able to seize some control of his fate—that there is, in fact, room for chance and human agency even when fate ultimately holds sway. Priam therefore decides to go to Achilles and beg him for Hector’s body in exchange for a ransom. The idea scandalizes Priam’s wife and family, who view it as degrading and unworthy of a king. This, however, is precisely why it appeals to Priam, who relishes the idea of simply being a father after a lifetime spent obeying royal customs and conventions. Over the course of his journey (and thanks in part to his driver, Somax’s, efforts), Priam becomes ever more enamored of the ordinary but personal world he has had so little chance to engage with as a king. His meeting with Achilles completes his transformation from king to man, and he is able to return to Troy at peace with himself and his life.

Priam Quotes in Ransom

The Ransom quotes below are all either spoken by Priam or refer to Priam. 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 2 Quotes

He is obliged, in his role as king, to think of the king's sacred body, this brief six feet of earth he moves and breathes in—aches and sneezes and all—as at once a body like any other and an abstract of the lands he represents, their living map.

Related Characters: Priam
Related Symbols: Earth and Water
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Ransom quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

This time, when I look behind me, what is glowing out from under the coverlet…is the body of my son Hector, all his limbs newly restored and shining, restored and ransomed.

Related Characters: Priam (speaker), Hector
Related Symbols: Ransom
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

It seems to me…that there might be another way of naming what we call fortune and attribute to the will, or the whim, of the gods. Which offers a kind of opening. The opportunity to act for ourselves. To try something that might force events into a different course.

Related Characters: Priam (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

And I am back there in the very midst of it, looking down that white-dust road into another life. And it means nothing, that other story. In this one the miraculous turnabout has never happened. I am just one more slave-thing like the rest, one among many.

Related Characters: Priam (speaker)
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

In the end, what we come to is what time, with every heartbeat and in every moment of our lives, has been slowly working towards: the death we have been carrying in us from the very beginning, from our first breath.

Related Characters: Priam (speaker)
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 3 Quotes

The realm of the royal was representational, ideal. Everything that was merely accidental…all this was to be ignored, left to fall away into the confused and confusing realm of the incidental and the ordinary.

His whole life was like that, or had been. But out here, he discovered, everything was just itself. That was what seemed new.

Related Characters: Priam
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

It was as if you had found yourself peering through the crack in a door (exciting, Priam found, this imagining himself into a situation he would never have dreamed of acting out) and saw clearly for a moment into the fellow's life, his world.

Related Characters: Priam, Somax
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Royal custom—the habit of averting his gaze, always, from the unnecessary and particular—had saved him from all that. And yet it was just such unnecessary things in the old man's talk, occasions in which pain and pleasure were inextricably mixed, that so engaged and moved him.

Related Characters: Priam, Somax
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 4 Quotes

[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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 5 Quotes

Look, he wants to shout, I am still here, but the I is different. I come as a man of sorrow bringing the body of my son for burial, but I come also as the hero of the deed that till now was never attempted.

Related Characters: Priam, Hector
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

And for him the misery of this moment will last forever; that is the hard fact he must live with. However the story is told and elaborated, the raw shame of it will be with him now till his last breath.

Related Characters: Priam, Neoptolemus
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Ransom LitChart as a printable PDF.
Ransom.pdf.medium

Priam Character Timeline in Ransom

The timeline below shows where the character Priam appears in Ransom. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
It is nighttime in Troy, but the king of Troy, Priam, is having difficulty sleeping, as he has for the past eleven days since his son... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Suddenly, Priam senses a shift in the room’s atmosphere and realizes that a god is about to... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
As Priam continues to wait for the god’s arrival, he recalls the moment he saw Achilles kill... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
The goddess Iris appears, and interrupts Priam’s gloomy thoughts. She gently tells him that he is mistaken to see what has happened... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Already feeling a bit better, Priam sits still as a vision comes to him. In it, he sees himself stripped of... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
When Priam reaches Hecuba’s room, he realizes that she has been awake all night as well, crying.... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Priam attempts to redirect the conversation toward his plan, acknowledging that he is too old to... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Priam continues before Hecuba can interrupt, painting a picture of the cart first loaded with ransom—coins,... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Hecuba is disturbed and objects that Achilles will never agree to Priam’s terms, as he already ignored Hector’s request that the winner of the duel return his... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
Hecuba worries that Priam will not return, and that she will be left to cope with whatever happens to... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
Priam, undeterred, says there is more that Hecuba needs to understand: although she has heard the... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
Continuing his narrative, Priam describes how his sister Hesione, who had herself been taken captive, recognized him in the... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The "ugliness" of Priam's story causes Hecuba visible discomfort: she dislikes thinking of her husband as simply another abandoned... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Later that morning, Priam meets with his counselors, as well as his remaining children. Most of his surviving sons... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Priam explains his plan to his sons, who feel, like Hecuba, that it is beneath his... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Priam’s sons hope that Cassandra will object to Priam’s plan, but she has lost her taste... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Priam appreciates what Polydamas has said, but nevertheless explains his reasons for disagreeing: although he is... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
That afternoon, Priam waits as his sons prepare a cart and assemble the ransom—a fortune in treasure. Instead... (full context)
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...Somax—a middle-aged man who is rough around the edges and overwhelmed by the glamor of Priam’s court. Somax suspects that he has been chosen largely because one of his mules, Beauty,... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Priam asks Somax whether he understands what he has been hired to do, and Somax—somewhat intimidated—says... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...if they are witnessing Hector’s body taking shape. Hecuba calls for water and wine, and Priam makes an offering to the gods. As he prays, a bird flies overhead, which Somax... (full context)
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...to a halt, and a crowd gathers. The people watch in confusion as Somax and Priam drive by in a cart, accompanied by the king’s surviving sons. The princes eventually turn... (full context)
Part 3
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
At dusk, Somax and Priam stop to rest on the banks of the River Scamander. Priam, however, does not immediately... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Somax wades into the river and quickly realizes that Priam has not followed. Although still uncomfortable with the difference in status, Somax decides that he... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
Somax unpacks some food and encourages Priam to eat. Priam at first declines, and instead simply listens as Somax describes how his... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
As Priam settles in on the riverbank, he thinks about how unfamiliar everything he is experiencing is... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Priam continues to reflect on the novelty of what is happening, now focusing in particular on... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
Priam finds that he wants to know more about Somax and his daughter-in-law, but he does... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
...them was as a child, and says that he grew up to be particularly strong. Priam presses Somax on what happened to this son, and Somax explains that he died trying... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Priam thinks about the sons he himself has lost, remembering the role he has played in... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Priam asks Somax about his other son, and Somax points to a spot further along the... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Night is now falling, and Somax tells Priam that they  should move on. Priam is reluctant to leave, but expects to remember all... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
As Priam and Somax walk back toward the cart, they see a young man with glossy curls... (full context)
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...to get rid of Orchilus, who has made himself at home leaning against the cart. Priam also finds Orchilus's careless and haughty demeanor off-putting, but senses that it would be unwise... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...place to cross. The cart doesn’t slip this time, but the water wells up to Priam’s feet, and he finds that he is enjoying the adventure, and already reliving it inside... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...their escort may not be who he says he is, and voices his concerns to Priam. (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
Priam realizes that their escort is in fact the god Hermes, and Somax becomes alarmed. Since... (full context)
Part 4
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Priam, meanwhile, is unnerved by the sight of Achilles on his knees but manages to explain... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...Achilles motions for Automedon to bring Somax inside. Although he is not entirely sure that Priam is who he claims to be, Achilles feels sympathetic towards him on account of his... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...Eventually, he begins to explain how he came to be called Idaeus, at which point Priam takes over the story. (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Priam explains who Somax is and, speaking directly to the carter, thanks him for his service.... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Priam begins his appeal, asking Achilles how he would feel if his own son Neoptolemus were... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Priam continues to plead with Achilles, asking him to remember that they both share the same... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
Achilles thinks about what Priam has said, recalling how he felt standing by the ocean that morning, thinking of the... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
As Achilles recovers his composure and turns to look at Priam again, he has a vision of the future: he sees his son Neoptolemus killing Priam... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Leaving Priam in the care of his men, Achilles goes to retrieve Hector’s body. Automedon sets up... (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 father Peleus.... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
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 truce of eleven days for Hector’s... (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 but is... (full context)
Part 5
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
The sun is rising as Priam and Somax leave the Greek encampment. As they do so, they pass by burial mounds... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Eventually, Priam asks Somax to stop the cart, and the king climbs down, walking around to the... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Priam mounts the cart again, pondering what he has accomplished as Somax drives on. Although he... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
As the cart fords the river once more, Priam thinks back to their earlier crossing, and all of the simple pleasures he had discovered... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
...way to Troy, eager to claim his part in the story and fantasizing about killing Priam. (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
The narrator skips forward, explaining that Priam’s actual death will be nothing like what Neoptolemus had imagined. Instead of mildly accepting his... (full context)
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
The narrative skips back to the present, where Priam is pointing out a figure—presumably Helen of Troy—to Somax. Somax, however, is largely uninterested, because... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...Somax keeps entertaining his listeners with his stories, describing how he once met Hermes, convinced Priam to dip his feet in the River Scamander, and ate a meal given to him... (full context)