The Song of Achilles
on 99 bookshelves
(3 private bookshelves)
1) In the Iliad,Patroclus is a relatively minor character. Why do you think the author chose him to be her narrator? Which otherfigures in the story might make interesting narrators?
2) Near the beginning of their friendship, Achilles tellshis father that he values Patroclus because “he is surprising.” What do you think Achilles means by that? Howis Patroclus different from the other foster boys? Why?
3) What do you think are the reasons behind Thetis’opposition to Patroclus?
4) How do the boys change during their time withChiron? Do the centaur’s lessonscontinue to be a guiding force in their lives?
5) On the island of Scyros, what motivates Deidameia’sdesire to speak to Patroclus alone? Whatdoes she hope to achieve?
6) To what extent does Achilles’ ultimate destiny shape hischoices? Is there such a thing as freewill in this world?
7) Historical events can sometimes turn upon the will orpersonality of a single person. Aside from Achilles, are there other characterswhose faults or virtues significantly affect the Trojan War’s outcome?
8) Myths are often called “timeless” for their insights intohuman behavior. What parallels do yousee between the characters and conflicts of this novel and today? What pieces of Patroclus and Achilles’ storycan be universalized?
9) What is the significance of song and music in the novel?
10) Patroclus is often a self-critical narrator. Consider how other characters in the novelregard him—do they see him in the same way he sees himself?
11) As represented in the novel, what are some of Odysseus’defining qualities? Do you find him asympathetic character? Why or why not?
12) Consider the explosive falling out between Achilles andAgamemnon. In what ways are each of themat fault for the rift? Could it havebeen avoided, or was it inevitable given that Achilles’s fate is determined?
13) Achilles and Briseis each claim Patroclus’ loyalty andaffection. In what ways are they similaror different? What are the dynamics ofeach of their relationships with Patroclus?
14) What does the encounter between Priam and Achillesreveal about Achilles? Why do you thinkAchilles grants his request?
15) Near the end of the book, Odysseus comes to speak toPyrrhus on Patroclus’ behalf. Why do you think he does this? How did it change (or not) your opinion ofOdysseus?
16) Peleus warns his son that any mortal who visits thesea-nymphs in their caves beneath the sea does not return the same. How is this belief borne out by the characterof Pyrrhus, who was raised there? Inwhat way does Pyrrhus confirm or deny Patroclus’ fears about the gods?
17) In the final pages of the book, we learn more aboutThetis. How does this affect our view ofher?
18) Patroclus tells Thetis that he is “made ofmemories.” What does he mean bythat? What role does memory—bothpersonal and cultural—play in the novel?