“I don’t think it’s right, Master Altman,” said Elbert. “Homer should not have written Hector as such a wonderful character if he was only going to dishonor him later. It’s bad enough that Achilles kills Hector but it’s downright brutal when he drags his body behind his chariot. If that is what Homer had in store for Hector, then why did he insert that tender scene between him and Andromache? Why did he make us love Hector and then take him away from us? Isn’t that a betrayal of our trust?”
Master Altman considered Elbert’s questions for a few minutes before he responded.
“Lad, you have put your finger on the issue that every playwright and poet faces,” he said. “How much conflict does he make his characters endure? Without some amount of conflict, the story is of little interest to the reader. Without conflict, one may as well tell stories of kittens playing the harp – entertaining but of no lasting substance. A well-written story must have conflict. Even the renowned Aristophanes used it as the driving force of his comedies.”
“And yet, as you pointed out, it pains us to see our favorite characters suffer. We want the path of life to be smooth for them, a reflection of our own desires. But life teaches us otherwise. And that, I think, is why there is conflict in poems and plays. Our fellow humans can connect with it. In some way, conflict in a story resonates with the conflict we experience in ourselves.”
“Well, I still don’t like how Homer treated Hector,” said Elbert. “It’s disturbing to read – especially the part where Hector predicts Andromache’s fate after the Greeks overthrow Troy.”
Master Altman slapped his hand on the table.
“Then I say, good for you. If you are disturbed by conflict, if you are appalled by violence, if you grieve at injustice, then rejoice. It shows you are a human, not a god.”