Below, readers can explore a few of the best quotes from these two novels and consider what Miller’s characters have to say about, and eventually learn about, their own lives and those of others. From Circe to Patroclus, the heroic characters in her novels have a great deal to say about what it means to be human. They speak in a way that’s highly relatable, despite their ancient pasts.
Heroism and Bravery
Odysseus inclines his head. “True. But fame is a strange thing. Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another.” He spread his broad hands. “We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory. Who knows?” He smiles. “Perhaps one day even I will be famous. Perhaps more famous than you.
These lines are spoken by the famed hero, Odysseus, whose presence eventually convinces Achilles to join the Trojan War with the Greeks. He speaks of fame, an important theme in the novel. For some, fame lasts, or for others, it dies when they do. It’s impossible to say who is going to leave a mark on the world that’s remembered for centuries to come and outlasts the “holocaust of memory.”
“Name one hero who was happy.”
I considered. Heracles went mad and killed his family; Theseus lost his bride and father; Jason’s children and new wife were murdered by his old; Bellerophon killed the Chimera but was crippled by the fall from Pegasus’ back.
“You can’t.” He was sitting up now, leaning forward.
These lines occur within an exchange between Patroclus and Achilles in The Song of Achilles. The first-person narrator is Patroclus. He’s speaking with his friend and lover about the nature of heroes and their lot in life. They are both aware that the classical heroes they look up to did not lead happy lives. They lost loved ones and ended up with long legacies but unhappy personal lives. Achilles, following these lines, asserts that he’s going to be the first hero who is also happy.
A Woman’s Life
It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.
These lines are from Circe, Miller’s second novel. They are narrated by the title character and are about the nature of a woman’s life and how women are supposed to behave. She acknowledges that traditionally women are supposed to be delicate. But, if she ever believed it, she notes, she doesn’t any longer. She is not delicate like an egg or flower. Circe has to deal with a lot of loss in her life and much of it she contends with on her own.
The thought was this: that all my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.
This thoughtful line is also found in Circe and is another example of the narrator reconsidering her views on herself. She has a great deal of power that went untapped for a long time. She’s no longer willing to let herself be consumed by her own life. She’s going to become the power/force to be reckoned with. She’ll be the “creature” haunting the murky waters and strike fear into men’s hearts.
The Gods and the Afterlife
I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.
Here, Circe considers her views on the gods. She used to hold them in high regard, as most people do. But, as she learns more about them, and knows them personally, she realizes that they are “more dead than anything.” They do not love as humans do and have no morality to make them seem alive.
There is no law that gods must be fair, Achilles,” Chiron said. “And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone. Do you think?
Here, Chiron, Achilles’ and Patroclus’ teacher (a centaur) explores the nature of the gods. He lectures Achilles on something that he sees as obvious but that the young warrior needs reminding of. There is no rule that the gods have to be fair, he says. They might be all powerful, but that doesn’t mean they are going to use their powers in a way that seems just to him.
You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.
Here is yet another quote, this time from Circe, that explores the nature of the gods. They are inhuman and in their coldness and power, they ache for something human. They are “frightened” of pain but they also “ache…deeply to see” it. They cause it in order to see human beings living and feeling as they cannot.
Is Circe a sequel to The Song of Achilles?
Circe has been described as a sequel of a kind to The Song of Achilles. It is a “spiritual” sequel, some readers have posed. It takes place in the same realm of myth and gods, and includes a few overlapping characters, but is not focused on the same main characters in The Song of Achilles.
What is the book The Song of Achilles about?
The book is a retelling of the story of Achilles and Patroclus with a focus on their intimate relationship. The author used historic sources, dating back to the time of Plato, to expand their relationship beyond that of close companions.
Who is Madeline Miller?
Madeline Miller is an American author. She was born in 1978 and is known for her two novels, The Song of Achilles and Circe. Both of these novels are modern takes on ancient stories.
What is the moral of The Song of Achilles?
The moral is that love is capable of outlasting everything. To the end of their lives, and into the afterlife, the love between the two main characters sustains them.