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About Daventhal

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  1. Daventhal


    Apologies for just quoting someone else instead of typing up my own thoughts, but it's late and I can't say it better than this. Here's the abstract from that essay I mentioned and it gives at least a cursory answer to your question: "We explore Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven as a reading of the Iliad. Significant parallels link the two works in terms of genre, plot structure, and ideology, especially the ideology of manhood. The Western is, in fact, the modern American epic, and as such performs an equivalent cultural role to that of the Iliad in Classical Greece: It defines the qualities necessary for those heroes who will build civilization out of wilderness. In both works, the protagonists-Achilles and William Munny-are self-questioning warriors who temporarily reject the culture of violence only to return to it after the death of their closest male friend, in which they are implicated. Yet the film departs markedly from the Greek epic in its self-consciousness, not only about the nature of heroism but also about the nature and function of epic itself. Despite the film's metafictional interventions, however, Unforgiven ultimately reinscribes rather than repudiates Munny/Eastwood's heroic mythopoeisis. Eastwood, as well as Munny, is thus able to posit himself as an Achillean hero and thereby justifies his role in the myth of a civilizing Western violence."
  2. Daventhal


    Listening to the podcast and reading the forums here, I really expected to hear some mention of the (I thought) undeniable parallels this film shares with The Iliad of Homer (the story of Helen of Troy). While I suppose it's possible the similarities are just a coincidence (especially given that the screenwriter himself didn't mention it), I still find it hard to believe that Homer's epic was not the inspiration for the main structure of the story. After seeing Unforgiven years ago, I wrote an essay on this topic for my university Greek Literature class. Googling it today, I see that many others have drawn the same parallels. I'll briefly describe the similarities below, but if you want a more eloquent summing up of things, search for it yourself. Specifically, check out "Western Values, or the People's Homer: Unforgiven as a Reading of the Iliad." The most instantly recognizable similarity is that it is a woman (specifically a woman's face) that is the impetus for the plot of the entire film. In the Iliad, the Trojan war begins when the legendary beauty, Helen, is abducted by Paris and taken to Troy, where she is then pursued by the Greek king, Menelaus, to whom she was meant to be married. Of course, in Unforgiven, it is assassins who descend on the town with the aim of avenging violence done to Deliliah's beauty. The other most compelling similarity is the resemblance William Munny's story has to that of Achilles. Both are legendary men of violence who have turned away from their past for whatever reason. In the Iliad, Achilles refuses to take part in the battle because he has been slighted by the king. He only returns to the fight after his friend/lover Patroclus is killed in battle by Hector while impersonating Achilles (wearing his armor). In Unforgiven, it is the murder of Ned (Who used William's rifle in the assassination attempt) by Little Bill that finally turns William back to his old, vicious ways. Then, he kills Little Bill to avenge Ned's death, just as Achilles kills Hector. I also think Saul Rubinek's Beauchamp is meant to stand in for Homer himself. Clearly the movie isn't a note-for-note retelling of the Iliad, but what do you guys think? Am I insane? Is it just a coincidence?