Achilles and Duryodhana

The parallels in these two stories are just amazing. The anti-hero and the tragic flaw, the action of their respective mothers and the one weak link that killed both.

Thetis, mother of Achilles dips him in Styx to make him invulnerable while holding his heel by her forefinger and thumb. The Styx water does not touch the heels. Years later, Paris aims an arrow at that exact point and kills him in the trojan war .

Gandhari, mother of Duryodhana, distraught at hearing the demise of all her sons but Duryodhana, wants to make him invulnerable. Blindfolded for her entire married life (out of respect for her blind husband Dhritarashtra), her eyes possess mystical powers. She asks Duryodhana to bathe and come to her tent naked, and prepares to open her blindfold to use her powers to make Duryodhana unconquerable (Worth mentioning that Duryodhana’s name literally means ‘hard to conquer’ ).

Lord Krishna, the omniscient, runs into Duryodhana while he is about to enter the tent, and mockingly admonishes him to dress appropriately (fully aware of queen Gandhari’s plans). Duryodhana, embarassed sheepishly wears a loincloth before he enters the tent of his mother. Gandhari opens the blindfold and is stunned to see the loincloth.

Later in the war, when the mace battle between Bheema and Duryodhana intensifies, with Duryodhana showing no signs of losing, Lord Krishna motions to Bhima, pointing out Duryodhana’s thigh as the possible target. Bheema strikes, and Duryodhana falls, mortally wounded.

The anti-hero and his tragic flaw have been a substantial influence in literature and mythology over the years.

While I say this, the train of thought is equally interesting, given that I started off from Jerry calling George ‘Biff’ –to Biff Loman of ‘Death of a Salesman’-to Willy Loman the anti-hero-to tragic flaw-to achilles and finally to Duryodhana.

Notes : Hamartia + Hubris + Catharsis + Epiphany +

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