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Literary Skill: The Epic Simile

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1 Literary Skill: The Epic Simile
Advanced Skill: Analyze Epithet Detecting Imagery The Death of Hector from the Iliad by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles

2 Epic Simile or Homeric Simile
Extended comparisons Color and amplify Digression from the plot Digression is well suited to the conversational pace of the Greek oral storytelling. Homer credited with authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey which were recited on solemn occasions. Some scholars argue that these poems were written by a group of people rather than by one individual. Later used by the poets Dante and Milton as an essential part of an epic poem’s structure. Make up one to describe me.

3 Epic Simile Example – Description of Achilles' Spear
“Bright as that star amid the stars in the night sky, / star of the evening, brightest star that rides the heavens, / so fire flared from the sharp point of the spear Achilles / brandished.”

4 Close Reading Metacognitive Strategy: Ladders of Questions
Reread the simile in lines Paraphrase the text to ensure understanding. Literal Question: What things are being compared in the simile? Interpretive Question: What might this simile, and others in the story, tell you about Homer’s listeners? Experiential Question: How do animals behave when they are hunting? How do they behave when they are being hunted?

5 Epithet Phrases that include adjectives describing characteristics of a person or thing. Aid to listener to identify. Aid to oral story teller to maintain meter and recall plot. Make up one to describe me.

6 Epithet Examples “swift Achilles” “swift racer Achilles” “brilliant Achilles” “proud runner Achilles” “Hector, breaker of horses”

7 Close Reading Practice
Re-read lines from “With that” to “my fighting strength.” What epithets describe Hector? What evidence in the passage supports the epithets used to describe Hector? What additional epithet does Homer include? How do the epithet’s contribute to the tone of the passage? “glorious Hector” and “Hector the gallant captain.” Gallant means noble or brave. Hector’s challenge to Achilles supports the description of Hector as gallant. Only a very brave person would challenge someone who is trying to kill him. “the great godlike Achilles” (line 106) Hector intends it as an ironic taunt, but the true irony – known to the audience – is that Athena has already re-armed Achilles.

8 Imagery Writing that speaks to or engages the senses.

9 Vocabulary that Addresses the senses
Find the following words in the text: lethal (line 51) onslaught (line 76) gluts (line 91) rend (line 194) defiled (line 253) Explain how each word contributes to the imagery of battle. Achilles circles Troy with lethal or “deadly” speed. His speed is deadly because he will kill Hector when he catches him. Lethal contributes to the imagery of death even before blows are exchanged. Hector says he once feared Achilles’ onslaught, or intense attack. Onslaught adds to the image of slaughter or bloody battle. Achilles says that fighting will continue until blood gluts the god of war. The image of Ares overwhelmed with blood is particularly gory one. Angry Achilles declares that animals will rend, or tear apart, Hector’s body. Rend suggests a strong, violent action and creates a cruel, brutal image. Hector’s body is defiled after his death. Achilles treats the body with disrespect, dragging it behind his chariot. The image of Hector’s abused body is grisly, and defiled evokes an image of violation. Select a fellow student and make up an epic simile and then an epithet to describe him/her. Be nice!

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