There be dragons!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Phoenix as crucial

Achilles in beginning of epic = immature; undefined; infinite potential for greatness & possibility of escaping his fate; amorphous as water.  More the serpent's twistiness than the eagle's nobility.  thinks he is a god; "best of the Achaeans"

Achilles during epic = burns off the immature man; first slowly then in a conflagration after the death of Patroclus (cannot be quenched by that amorphous power of Scamander)

Achilles at the end of the epic = new man; mature; clearly defined and "set in place" by his now known fate; part of the human race.  realizes his equality to others (Priam); "a useless dead weight on the good green earth"

Why Phoenix, then?  surrogate of Peleus and Cheiron.  Voice of the elderly statesman.  Second of the three speakers (Odysseus= logos, Phoenix=ethos, Ajax=pathos) and appeals to ethical reasons; I am like your father. Don't disappoint your father.  Think of your father.

Ironic then that Achilles' greatest display of transformation (in Book 24) concerns thoughts of his father.  The transformation of son into father, and father fading away - is this an example of the alchemical exchange?  immaturity becoming maturity?  if so, that exchange is symbolized by the mythical creature the Phoenix; dies in flames, then resurrects anew as the transfigured bird.  This is an apotheosis image.  Man transfigured into deity by fire (the element of the sun) and fits the movement of the epic perfectly (i.e. immaturity, trial by fire, resurrection as new transfigured man)



Helpful article on Phoenix by Scott: http://www.jstor.org/stable/288985?seq=1

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