The Office of Assertion also outlines three basic sorts of conclusions (ibid, pp. 91-7). Below, each of the three types concludes our essay on the following prompt:
Are Homer’s epics great literature, even today? Why or why not?
1. The “conclusion-by-suggestion” introduces a new idea and briefly explores, without actually arguing for, it.
While feelings of love and loyalty motivate both Patroclus and Hector, negative emotions such as pride, anger, and hatred drive Achilles to the battlefield. After killing Hector, however, Achilles becomes almost as meek and gentle as his dead foe. Hector’s spirit has conquered the conqueror. Although the gentlest characters die, the Iliad does suggest that gentleness is the ideal, and that if Achilles had imitated Hector earlier on, Patroclus might not have died. This epic of war actually champions peace.
2. The conclusion by “emotional appeal” points the reader towards a “right” emotional response.
In a book about war, this mournful ending identifies the deepest human response to suffering: profound grief. The reality of death drives away all reason, all interest in beauty and in ideas. Like the Trojan women, all who lose people they love fall into irrational mourning. The millennia since Troy have altered many things, but this reaction to death remains the same.
3. The “tail-biting snake” conclusion returns to an idea from the introduction.
Throughout the Iliad, readers experience the anger of Achilles, the loyalty of Patroclus, and the calm of Hector. Such a variety of emotional states makes the epic a truly great book. The Iliad, as a storehouse of emotional experience, will survive the modern age, for it transcends the barriers of time and space by showcasing the depths of the human heart.