The Tragic Downfall of Heroes: Aristotelian Tragic Hero Archetypes in The Illiad and Million Dollar Baby

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

Homer’s “The Iliad“ is in general a story about a war and the confusion that caused the war. The plot focuses on the development of a young man named Achilles and his journey of anger and seeking revenge after he learns of the death of his friend, Patroclus. It also focuses on how there is glory and honor earned through war.
Million Dollar Baby tells a story of Maggie who faces all odds at a gym and tries to get trained by Frankie as the only woman. After refusing, Frankie finally gives in and trains her and she becomes a great woman fighter. The plot focuses on the glory Frankie earns as he trains Maggie and she rises to the top. Then something tragic happens, she gets hurt and she cannot fight anymore, her family turns on her, and she asks Frankie to help her end her life.

The theme Clint Eastwood portrays is similar to “The Iliad” in a way, which is the development of Frankie and the glory he earns as he helps Maggie fight her way to the top and how ultimately his desire to be a father-like hero leads him to make a life ending decision for Maggie. Both Achilles and Frankie can be considered Aristotelian Tragic Heroes. They both did things that qualified them as sort of a hero and experienced tragedy in the midst of it due to some decisions they made.

Both Frankie and Achilles are Aristotelian Tragic Heroes who are seen as noble. Then they each experience a tragic downfall but in a different way. Achilles and Frankie’s downfall can definitely be thought of as a hamartia. In “The Iliad” Achilles is extremely focused on his anger and this directly affects the Trojan War. He is the greatest Achaian warrior but in Book 21 he decides to violate heroic code he has always lived by. In this book Achilles states, Poor fool, no longer speak to me of ransom, nor argue it.In the time before Patroklos came to the day of his destiny then it was the way of my heart’s choice to be sparing of the Trojans, and many I took alive and disposed of them. Now there is not one who can escape death.In “Million Dollar Baby” Frankie helps Maggie attain greatness because of his inward desire to always be the hero. When Maggie gets hurt fighting and asks Frankie to help her end her life on a high note, his desire to be hero becomes a tragic flaw. The death of Achilles’ friend, Patroclus, causes him to view life as a mortal and his search for revenge brings out a terrible wrath and anger (a tragic flaw) in a battle that devours many. Both of their tragic flaws lead them to kill people (tragedy) but in different scenarios.

Achilles is an Aristotelian Tragic Hero as seen through his journey of being prideful and emotional. HIs ego drives his decisions and he doesn’t seem to care who is hurt in the process. However, Frankie is not portrayed as prideful and he manages his emotions in a different way. You can tell his emotions and desire to be viewed as hero are driving his decisions but Clint Eastwood leads us to believe Frankie’s ultimately believed his decision to “help” Maggie end her life was the right thing to do. In Book 18 of the Iliad once he learns of Patroclus’ death, Achilles is so focused on revenge he doesn’t even care that his actions may even lead to his own death.

Both men were truly heroes and their hamartia ultimately lead them to their downfall of being viewed as heroes. Even though in their hearts they both felt like they were heroes after it was all over, even though they may not have been how others viewed them. Prior to Patroclus death, Achilles was viewed as a notable warrior. He sought revenge and his inward prideful desires led him down a path of destruction. Frankie’s journey with his own daughter left him with a void and desire to be viewed as her. As a trainer he was able to be hero to so many and then finally Maggie. The strong inner desire to be viewed as hero led both men to kill and end people’s lives. In contrast however, Achilles’ actions were driven by anger and wrath while Frankie had a different motivation. Frankie’s motivation was more void and disappointment. Tragic heroes can be seen in so many stories that have been told throughout time. For some reason people love to see a person who was once glorified experience a downfall. I personally root for the underdog all of the time.

Both of these stories are examples of how tragedy can cause a hero’s life to shift in a way that is not so heroic and how what others view in you that makes you a hero may not be what you even see when you look in the mirror.


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