||How do you kill a hero? The deaths of Sherlock in the 19th century, and that of Eline Vere in Louis
Couperus’ Eline Vere in the early 20th century stirred the hearts of their audiences to such a degree
that people actually believed an actual person had died. In present popular culture, the death of a
protagonist can still have a profound impact. Lord Eddard Stark’s death, the main protagonist in
George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, comes rather unexpected and the very
unorthodox way of killing the characters in the rest of this series has become a meme on the
internet. The death of Brian the talking dog in the sit-com Family Guy (season 12, episode 6) even led
to protest and Facebook pages to get him back into the series.
Patroclus’ death is considered to be “terrifying”, and to have “great psychological depth” Janko
(1992, p. 312). Together with Sarpedon’s death before and afterwards Hector’s, it is claimed by De
Jong (2012, 13-15) to be the central death scene in the Iliad. With the modern examples in mind, the
question arises how the narrator of the Iliad conveys the emotional charge these deaths have. To
investigate how the audience is involved in their deaths, the study of immersion will be applied.
This thesis will deal with the emotional involvement in the death scenes of three heroes: Sarpedon,
Patroclus, and Hector. These deaths are knitted together. Patroclus kills Sarpedon, and against
Achilles’ wishes, he rushes to the Trojan walls. There he is killed by Hector. In return, Hector is
killed by Achilles to avenge his fallen friend Patroclus. Elements of Sarpedon’s death are repeated in
Hector’s. Sarpedon is the leader of Troy’s allies, and second to Hector. In both scenes, Zeus
deliberates on their deaths. In all killing scenes there are a dialogue, spoliation of armour, and
threat of mutilation. There is a fight for Sarpedon’s, and Patroclus’ corpse; Hector’s is claimed by
Achilles, and the Greeks only run around his body.
The central question of this thesis will therefore be how these death scenes relate to each other and
to other deaths in the Iliad. In order to substantiate judgments like “terrifying”, this research will
assess scenes with the deaths of minor and major heroes. It can be expected that the former are less
immersive than the deaths of major heroes that have a crucial role in the plot. Scene 6.1-24 will be
assessed for minor heroes. Passage 16.394-867, Sarpedon’s and Patroclus’ deaths, and 22.90-404, that
of Hector, are examined as examples of the deaths of major heroes. I will argue that visual and sensory immersion is present in most deaths, but that emotional
immersion is used mostly in passages important to the development of the story. The continuation
of the same mental space will be shown to be an important feature of visual immersion in death
scenes. Allan, De Jong, & De Jonge (2014) have already argued for the immersive style of Homer’s
epic. This thesis will add to this claim that, when larger stretches of narrative are taken under
scrutiny, it is revealed the Homeric narrator does not just use these immersive elements at random:
there is logic to his choices.