The Iliad
The Iliad
by Homer
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Hektor

Character Analysis

Unlike Achilleus, who is mainly motivated by his sense of pride, Hektor fights primarily out of a sense of responsibility to his city and his family. The connection between these two is particularly strong for Hektor because his parents are Troy's king and queen. Mainly, though, we get a sense of Hektor's devotion from his interactions with his wife, Andromache, and their infant son, Skamandrios (whom the citizens have nicknamed "Astyanax" or "Lord of the City" in recognition of his father's role as the city's defender). Hektor's loving words toward his wife and son at the end Book 6 reveal the Trojan warrior's deep humanity.

Hektor's sense of duty makes him sharply critical of those he thinks aren't pulling their own weight for the common good. We see this especially in his attitude toward his brother, Paris, whom he repeatedly insults for getting the city in trouble and then not acting courageously to defend it. This sense of right and wrong is not limited to the battlefield, however; he also criticizes his mother for trying to convince him to relax with a glass of wine when he should be out on the battlefield. Similarly, when Hektor rejects Helen's offer to sit with her and talk, we perceive Hektor's deep sense of loyalty: he tells her that he has to go see his wife and child.

For all this, however, Hektor is still a warrior, and still susceptible to the warrior's greatest weakness: pride. Even though Hektor's pride helps to make him a brave warrior, it can also cloud his judgment. Ultimately, it leads to his downfall, and, because he is Troy's greatest warrior, the downfall of the city itself (even though this is only foreshadowed, not depicted, in the Iliad itself).

Hektor makes two fateful decisions: first, he disregards Poulydamas's advice and keeps the Trojans encamped on the plain of Troy. This leaves them open to Achilleus's counterattack. Second: he waits outside the walls of Troy, confident he can withstand Achilleus on his own. When Hektor's courage fails him and he starts running away from Achilleus – despite his earlier boast that he would never do so – many readers will be able to sympathize with his human weakness. When he regains his courage and, at the decisive moment, charges into battle knowing he is doomed, we gain a deeper respect for this flawed but essentially decent character.

Hektor Timeline
Next Page: Agamemnon
Previous Page: Achilleus

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