Philocetes Essay, Research Paper
Philoctetes, the bowman, is a most haunting and ambiguous character of Sophocles. He represents the pain which the world subjects all creative people to. Keeping his simplicity and innocence in a world of confusion and lies ends up being his greatest challenge. Through intense character portrayal, Sophocles presents the story of Philoctetes in a way so that the reader can empathizes and truly understand the pain of Philoctetes.
The story begins when Odysseus and Neoptolemus are on a beach on the island of Lemnos. They are looking for Philoctetes. Odysseus tells Neoptolemus to find Philoctetes, and tell him that he is the son of Achilles. Odysseus wants him to become friendly with Philoctetes and gain his trust. When he has accomplished that, he is to obtain Philoctetes= bow, so that they can take it back with them. After he receives his instructions from Odysseus, Neoptolemus sets off to find Philoctetes.
He meets up with him, and they start to talk. Philoctetes is overjoyed to find out that eh is talking to the son of Achilles. He tells him the story of how he was left on the island, crippled and dying. He then asks Neoptolemus to take him back with him, and to just not leave him on the island all alone. Neoptolemus agrees to take Philoctetes back with him, and he is overjoyed once again.
A sailor disguised as a trader then enters the scene and tells a tale to Neoptolemus of how he is in great danger and must be very careful. Philoctetes believes that Neoptolemus is actually in great danger so he suggests that they leave as soon as possible. He tells them the few things that he owns, including the bow. Philoctetes is greatly impressed by the bow, and when he admires it, Philoctetes tells him that anything of his is also to be considered Neoptolemus=. He then discloses that he is close to dying and decides to give Neoptolemus the bow for good.
Neoptolemus is then stricken with sympathy and probably guilt. He tells Philoctetes the truth. Philoctetes realizes what has happened to him once again, and begs for his bow to be returned. Odysseus then appears and shows Philoctetes no mercy. After continuing to beg for his bow, with no avail, he tells them he is going to his father, who is dead, and retreats into his cave.
Neoptolemus and Odysseus then start to walk back to the ship with the bow, but suddenly Neoptolemus decides to return to Philoctetes and give him the bow back. Odysseus is infuriated and leaves. Neoptolemus tells Philoctetes that he will take him home. Heracles appears and blesses them, and they start on their way home.
When Neoptolemus and Odysseus are on their way back to the ship and Neoptolemus decides to return to Philoctetes, the reader sees the side of Neoptolemus with a strong conscience. Even though it meant defying Odysseus, he put the life of Philoctetes above his own advancement. This seems to be the point in the story where the reader realizes the internal struggle of Neoptolemus. One side of him wants to help Odysseus, and their people, by bringing the bow back to fight, while the other side of him feels great compassion for Philoctetes, and his struggles. Being the son of Achilles comes with a great responsibility and reputation to live up to. Neoptolemus must decide whether to be the man Odysseus wants him to be, or to truly live up to the reputation set by his father, and do what is right in his own eyes.
The story of Philoctetes does not simply tell the story of one man, but of two, and the struggles which set them apart from the rest of the world. Neoptolemus struggles with an internal fight between personal advancement and moral obligation, while Philoctetes struggles to find his way home. The commonality of these struggles bring the two men together, and from this togetherness comes solution and blessings for both of them.