Conor Hall Adkisson & Hjelm PIB World Lit 18 October 2011 The Reinforcement of Aristocracy through Heroes in Literature

Often in older heroic stories and especially in the cases of Homer’s Iliad, Bhagavad-Gita, and Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of a King, the adventures and qualities of the Heroes are used to support an aristocratic ruling class. This fact is most prevalent in the case of the Iliad, an oral story told throughout Ancient Greece. This at first becomes apparent when you look at the social positions of the heroes, which in every case is some form of noble for example Achilles is leader of the Myrmidons, Agamemnon is king of Mycenae, Menelaus is King of Sparta, etc., from this the reader gets the impression that only nobles have the potential to be heroes and therefore are somehow superior and deserve their position. Furthermore the gods are always interfering with those who anger them as is the case with Agamemnon who makes “The gods enraged […] That’s why [Apollo kills us]”(111-113), so the gods will punish and kill out of anger towards a noble and inevitably kill the nobles themselves as is the case with Hector. This occurs when he loses favor with Zeus and he “had given him over to his enemies ” (368), while Athena assists greatly in his death by tricking him into fighting Achilles, as she assists him in killing Hector, this is instigates the idea that the gods will remove those leaders who are unfavorable and assist and approve of those who are, so only those who “deserve” power have it. In the mid-19th century, a time when literacy was rising, another tale is written that expertly shows an underlying support for a ruling class. In this case it is the final book of Idylls of a King by Lord Alfred Tennyson, Morte de Arthur. This story is told through the legend itself and aided by a cover story

a caste whose duty under the Indian caste system it was to fight for the noble caste. Further example of this point is found in Bedivere’s reaction to Arthur’s death. Eventually he is convinced by the god Krishna that “if [he considers] […] the standpoint of [his] own caste-duty. relayed to commoners through a religious story teller. and disgraced. This is seen in the legends of the ancient Greeks like the Iliad through the heroes invariably being nobles with the support of the gods. In another part of the world several hundred years earlier The Bhagavad-Gita. These statements also give support to a ruling class in the fact that he will be a sinner if he does not perform his duty to the noble class. It is the story of Arjuna an Indian warrior who questions whether or not he should go into battle against his family solely out of duty. This message conveys the need to support a ruling class through the argument that he has to fight because of his duty as a member of the warrior caste. is written conveying the same message. he feels lost and asks Arthur “Wither shall I go?” (pg 758. [He] will be a sinner. ln 278). The old stories of heroes often have elements that show an attempt to support aristocracy. The point is strengthened further simply because it is delivered by a god giving the system divine favor.”. and wonderful” (pg 755. This story was written at a time when feudalism. a system of ruling by group of aristocrat lords each taking a piece of the land. the religion this story is based in. It is first presented when the dying King Arthur asks Sir Bedvere to throw the sword Excalibur into the lake from which it came. [he] ought not hesitate (203)”. “if [he refuses] to fight […] [he] will be turning aside from [his] duty. this conveys to the reader that in complying with aristocracy you are greatly rewarded. This can also be seen in Idylls of a King’s sir Bedivere and his reward for listening to his King as well his sense of loss and confusion from lossing one. results in being reincarnated as an undesirable animal a horrible punishment in Hinduism. It takes Bedivere three times but when he finally does he sees something “mystic.in order to apply the message to “modern” times. and being a sinner according to Hinduism. and. so a reader from this time is supposed to feel the same helplessness that Bedivere is now that he has no noble to guide him. Thirdly this can be seen in Bhagavad- . was dying out and with it the noble class. ln 196).

whether intentionally or not.Gita where religion and honor are used as the reason for following nobles. a tool to strengthen the aristocracy. . So it can be said that heroes and their stories are.