The Song of Achilles Book Summary

The Song of Achilles Summary. The Song of Achilles Book is a 2011 novel by American writer Madeline Miller. Set during the Greek Heroic Age, it is a retelling of the Trojan War as told from the perspective of Patroclus. 

The Song of Achilles Book follows Patroclus' relationship with Achilles, from their initial meeting to their exploits during the Trojan War, with focus on their romantic relationship. In 2012, The Song of Achilles was awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction.

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The Song of Achilles Summary

The Song of Achilles Summary

‘The Song of Achilles‘ opens with Patroclus, a Greek prince, son of Menoetius, being presented to Helen, daughter of King Tyndareus (and the future Helen of Troy) as a suitor. Patroclus narrates these events with the insight of a grown man, looking back on how his father was continually disappointed in him. Helen does not select the young Patroclus, but instead Menelaus. The remaining young men take a blood oath in defense of her choice. 

Patroclus describes accidentally killing another young boy, one of noble birth. This event resulted in his exile to Phthia. It’s at this time that he first meets Achilles. Patroclus falls in love with Achilles, and the two start a relationship, despite Achilles’ mother’s disapproval. Thetis expresses her belief that Patroclus is not of high enough birth to be a suitable companion for her son. 

Eventually, it comes to light that Paris of Troy has kidnapped Helen, taking her home with him. The oath Patroclus took as a child comes back to him. It may come to war, he believes, and he may be called to fight. 

Agamemnon leads the charge against Troy and calls on the Greeks to join his campaign. This includes Achilles. Thetis is particularly afraid for her son, remembering a prophecy that foretold his death there. She hides him on Skyros. He’s forced to marry a woman, Deidamia, who has his son, Neoptolemus. Patroclus accompanies him there for a time until they are discovered. 

Patroclus is forced to join the war against Troy, and Achilles determines that he’s going to accompany him. The two join the Greeks, led by Agamemnon, and go to war against the Trojans. Achilles is a great warrior and demonstrates his skill numerous times. In a famous episode, Achilles attempts to save Briseis, a young woman, from Agamemnon. This angers the leader, who has also angered the Gods. This leads to a plague on the Greeks. 

Achilles dishonors Agamemnon by refusing to give him Briseis. This leads to Achilles refusing to fight for the king and great losses for the Greeks in battle. In order to save his lover’s honor, and the war, Patroclus puts on Achilles’ armor and goes, in his stead, to fight (without Achilles’ knowledge). Hector, one of the sons of Priam, King of Troy, kills Patroclus, believing him to be Achilles. 

This climactic moment sends Achilles into an incredible rage. He releases his anger on the Trojans, eventually killing Hector. Achilles meets his fate, foretold in the prophecy when he’s shot in the heel with an arrow. The novel ends when Achilles and Patroclus reunite in the underworld. 

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The Song of Achilles Themes

Love and Devotion: At the heart of the story lies the profound love between Achilles, the legendary warrior, and Patroclus, his childhood friend and companion. Their bond transcends societal norms and expectations, defying the limitations of friendship and evolving into a passionate, all-encompassing love. Their devotion to each other forms the central driving force of the narrative, shaping their choices and shaping the reader's emotional journey. 

Fate and Destiny: The shadow of prophecy looms large over the characters, with Achilles destined for greatness and Patroclus forever bound to his side. The tension between free will and predetermined fate becomes a constant struggle, adding an element of tragedy and inevitability to the unfolding events. Their journey raises questions about whether we can truly defy destiny or whether we are merely players in a grander scheme.

War and Violence: Set against the backdrop of the Trojan War, the novel realistically portrays the brutality and horrors of war. Achilles' prowess in battle is undeniable, yet the cost of violence is laid bare through Patroclus' experiences and the devastating consequences of their choices. The story explores the impact of war on both the individual and the collective, highlighting its destructive nature and the lasting scars it leaves behind. 

Honor and Glory: The pursuit of honor and glory drives many characters in the story, particularly Achilles. His desire to be remembered as the greatest warrior fuels his ambitions but also blinds him to the potential dangers of pursuing glory at all costs. The clash between personal desires and societal expectations raises questions about the true meaning of honor and the sacrifices it demands.

Mortality and Loss: The ever-present awareness of mortality casts a shadow over the narrative. Achilles' invulnerability grants him temporary reprieve, but Patroclus's death serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of life. The novel explores the depths of grief and loss, examining how we cope with the tragedy of losing loved ones and finding meaning in the face of inevitable death.

Gender and Sexuality: The Song of Achilles challenges traditional gender roles and expectations. The intense love between Achilles and Patroclus pushes the boundaries of societal norms, prompting reflection on the nature of intimacy and the fluidity of gender roles. The novel's exploration of same-sex relationships in an ancient setting offers a nuanced perspective on love and desire, defying historical limitations and resonating with modern readers.

Storytelling and Memory: The story is narrated by Odysseus, who reflects on the legacy of Achilles and Patroclus. Through his storytelling, the past comes alive, preserving the memory of their love and sacrifice. The act of storytelling becomes a way to grapple with loss, give meaning to suffering, and ensure that the heroes' lives are not forgotten.

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Questions and Answers about The Song of Achilles Plot

What is the main message of the Song of Achilles? What is the main theme of The Song of Achilles? The main theme of this novel is the power of love. The novel shows how love is capable of overcoming vast obstacles, including death. Readers may also find themselves noticing themes of pride and violence.

Is The Song of Achilles a love story? This is one of my favorite books so far because of the amazing imagery and heart-wrenching love story. The Song of Achilles is a beautiful depiction of love, loss, and how two young people must overcome immense struggles to stay together.

Who is the love story between in Song of Achilles? The novel is a fictitious retelling of the classic Greek myth of Achilles and his companion and rumored lover, Patroclus. Miller tells the story of their love through the eyes of Patroclus, spanning from childhood to adulthood in a lyrical writing style.

Is The Song of Achilles an easy read? There are scenes where the emotions jump straight from the page. I think what I like most about the writing of The Song of Achilles is that it is easy to understand.

How old is Patroclus in song of achilles? Achilles and Patroclus are only 16 years old when they sail off with the allied troops of the Greek kingdoms, commanded by King Agamemnon, to try to reclaim beautiful Helen, wife of Agamemnon's brother, King Menelaus, who has either eloped with or been kidnapped by Paris, a son of King Hiram of Troy.

What makes The Song of Achilles so sad? The relationship between Patroclus and Achilles was a devastating love story. Both young men knew that their relationship was marked with death because of Achilles' duty as a hero.

Is The Song of Achilles an LGBT novel? The Song of Achilles further popularized gay romance stories in science fiction and fantasy. The book, which is told through Patroclus's perspective, is less a war epic than an intimate love story between two coming-of-age boys.

Do they kiss in the song of Achilles? Patroclus continues to spend his time with Achilles and sleep in his room. He also begins to dream of sensual, sexual happenings. One day on the beach, the boys finally share a kiss... but but are surprised and it ends abruptly. Patroclus is then confronted by a very angry Thetis, who witnessed their intimacy.

Did Achilles really love Patroclus? Achilles's relationship with Patroclus has been heavily debated since antiquity, with the likes of Plato arguing their status as lovers. Recently, there has been a shift in the accepted dogma, with more historians accepting the fact that Achilles and Patroclus's relationship was more than simply platonic.

Does Song of Achilles have a happy ending? But Patroclus is never buried; therefore, the two will never be able to be together again. While we always want a happy ending that ties up the story with a pretty bow, Miller does not do that with this novel. It does set her and her novel apart from others, and in the field of writing, that is important.

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