Ransom

by

David Malouf

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Somax Character Analysis

Somax—a middle-aged common man with a flair for storytelling and a special fondness for his mule Beauty—is the carter hired to convey Priam to the Greek encampment. As Ransom’s only original (and only lower-class) character, Somax occupies a unique role in the novel. In fact, he in some sense embodies the changes that Malouf has made to the story found in the Iliad, since his down-to-earth demeanor and ordinary troubles stand in stark contrast to the quite literally epic world that Priam and Achilles inhabit. Over the course of the novel, however, both Priam and Achilles come to appreciate the pleasures of being simply human (rather than a king, god, symbol, etc.), and Somax plays a key role in this transformation. Somax’s children have all died, and as he travels with Priam, the two men bond over their shared losses, even as Somax encourages Priam to experience both grief and life in general in a more personal and particular way. Tellingly, it is Somax who has the final word in the novel, which closes with the carter telling his grandchildren and great-grandchildren about the part he played in the Trojan War. His listeners do not believe him, but do enjoy talking about Somax’s now legendary mule Beauty—a detail that hints at Malouf’s defense of ordinary and unheroic life.

Somax Quotes in Ransom

The Ransom quotes below are all either spoken by Somax or refer to Somax. 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 3 Quotes

He had never in his life till now had to do with any but simple folk like himself, eaters of sheep's cheese and raw garlic, women laying out a bit of washing to dry on a bush beside the road, half-naked children, their heads shaven against lice…He would have to rely on native wit, and such bits of experience as are common to all, whether the gods in their wisdom have set us high or low.

Related Characters: Somax
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

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:

It was such a comfort just to hold on to her, and feel the warmth of her, and the scratchiness of her hide against my cheek. But whether it was for grief at my loss, or joy that she was safe, I can't tell you, sir. We're such contrary creatures. Maybe both.

Related Characters: Somax (speaker)
Related Symbols: Beauty
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4 Quotes

He isn't [Idaeus]—of course he isn't, he's Somax. A simple workman, who this morning, as on every other morning of his life, just happened to be standing in the marketplace waiting to be hired when two strangers appeared who just happened to be he king's sons, Trojan princes.

Related Characters: Somax
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5 Quotes

This old fellow, like most storytellers, is a stealer of other men's tales, of other men's lives.

Related Characters: Somax
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

The most remarkable thing about him was that he was the owner of a little black mule who is still remembered in this part of the country and much talked about. A charming creature, big-eyed and sleek, she bore the name of Beauty—and very appropriately too, it seems, which is not always the case.

Related Characters: Somax
Related Symbols: Beauty
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Ransom LitChart as a printable PDF.
Ransom PDF

Somax Character Timeline in Ransom

The timeline below shows where the character Somax appears in Ransom. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
This time, the princes return with Somax—a middle-aged man who is rough around the edges and overwhelmed by the glamor of Priam’s... (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 that he... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...Priam makes an offering to the gods. As he prays, a bird flies overhead, which Somax identifies to himself as a chickenhawk. Priam's son Helenus, however, says that it is an... (full context)
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...war come 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... (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... (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... (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... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...continues to reflect on the novelty of what is happening, now focusing in particular on Somax’s way of speaking. Whereas Priam is used to thinking of language as something that serves... (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 not know how to ask. Instead, Priam latches onto... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Somax continues to talk about his children, noting that only two of his sons lived to... (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...in each one’s funeral. In some ways, however, he feels he has not experienced what Somax has, because he did not have particularly personal relationships with any of his children. 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 river, where... (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... (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 and a... (full context)
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Somax attempts to get rid of Orchilus, who has made himself at home leaning against the... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Orchilus asks about Somax’s daughter-in-law, which irritates and confuses the carter, since he has not mentioned her to their... (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 one of Hermes’s roles is escorting the dead to the underworld, it... (full context)
Part 4
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
...significance of Hermes’s role in bringing the king here. Priam says that his herald (i.e. Somax) is outside the hut, along with the ransom he has brought. (full context)
Identity, Humanity, and Mortality Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...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 is who he claims to be,... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
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... (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. Meanwhile, Achilles is... (full context)
Fate, Chance, and Change Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...not to show any emotion toward his son’s body in front of the Greek "invaders."   Somax helps Priam back onto the cart. Achilles, who has followed them to the gate, tells... (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 and watch... (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 back of... (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 recognizes that the moment is bittersweet in many ways, he also... (full context)
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
...skips back to the present, where Priam is pointing out a figure—presumably Helen of Troy—to Somax. Somax, however, is largely uninterested, because he is still trying to settle on what gifts... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
As Somax thinks about the stories he will be able to tell about this episode, the narrative... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Empathy Theme Icon
The Epic and the Everyday Theme Icon
Even as the world around him changes, Somax keeps entertaining his listeners with his stories, describing how he once met Hermes, convinced Priam... (full context)