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Overview of Speech Work

Almost all artistic literature such as poems and novels are made up of the words. An author’s ability to use these words in a manner that appeals to readers and listeners, however, distinguishes a great writer from an ordinary one. In Homer’s Iliad, the writer proves beyond doubt that he has the ability to manipulate with words in a manner that pleases readers so well. Particularly in Book IX, the writer uses the devices of speeches to put out his message of thought not just to the reader but to specific subjects addressed in the poem. According to the Classics Technology Centre, Homer uses speeches to make his narrative more meaningful. These speeches are also classified as great works of literature, as it is noted that “throughout ancient times speech-making was the primary means of mass communication” (Classics Technology Centre). This means that the use of speeches as a writing tool was very appropriate for the setting and context of writing. In this essay, the speech delivered by Phoenix to Achilles is specifically examined and analyzed. Indeed, Phoenix, like Odysseus, is said to have very good rhetorical skills (see 3.216-223) that makes him exemplary for this work. The various strategies in his speech as well as the implications of his thoughts shall be critically scrutinized in this paper.

Speech’s Invention

Specifically, the speech to be analyzed is quoted as:

“So you, Achilles- great godlike Achilles I made you my son, I tried, so someday you might fight disaster off my back. But now, Achilles, beat down your mounting fury! It's wrong to have such an iron, ruthless heart.”

In terms of the inventions used by the Phoenix in his speech, there are two major elements that can be featured, and these are the topic and the logic. The topic is to persuade Achilles to return to the war. In the course of doing this, Phoenix decided to use a lot of logical interpretations to capture Achilles’ thought in reasoning with him (Phoenix). Specifically on the logic used, Phoenix tried to appeal to the conscience of Achilles to live up the reason for which he, Phoenix, had taken care of him as his son. Having dedicated his life to taking care of him as a son, Achilles was being made to appreciate the fact that the only thing he could do to be logically right was to fight off the disaster for which he was brought up. Phoenix really had limited options in his speech, because he was persuading a person of authority and could not resort to other forms of linguistic elements like compelling and obliging. Speaking to an authority and not just speaking but having a goal of persuading the authority to tow your line of argument, one really needs to be tactical in his/her approach (McCarthy).  

Speech’s Organization

Organization is an important component of speech work. This is because it makes speech meaningful and substantial. Disorganized speeches, therefore, do not make sense and do not sound serious. Assessing the organization of Phoenix’s speech, it would be said that Phoenix was perfect in his organization. Phoenix was well organized in his speech when he started taking Achilles through memory lines. He actually placed his logic first, and the logic was rooted in the memories of Achilles’ infancy. This means that right from the beginning of the speech, Achilles was offered something to think really deep about. Considering that Phoenix used critical or harsh words getting to the end of the speech, which are ‘Achilles, beat down your mounting fury! It's wrong to have such an iron, ruthless heart’, it is clear that Achilles would not have taken the whole speech lightly if Phoenix began the speech with that criticism. Phoenix’s organization was, therefore, perfect in the sense that it contained both light hearted and heavy words and he knew how to place each of these. Moreover, the light hearted words were highly logical and so set the precedence for why the listener should take the heavy words in good faith.

There is also the issue of ethical appellation. Appellations are very important in speeches made to people in authority and people with power. Kings and princes are examples of these. Appellations generally aim to make the listener feel happy and feel good about him or herself. The giving of appellations may pave way for the speaker to win favor from a person with authority (Cummings). Therefore, in his very first phrase, Phoenix utters the words, ‘Achilles- great godlike Achilles’. Referring to Achilles as a god was indeed an advanced form of attribute that had the potential of making Achilles feel highly ecstatic about himself, his abilities and his achievements. It also made him have recognition that his efforts and commitment to his people had been noticed. Putting this attribute at the beginning of the speech also came with a purpose and actually was directed towards achieving a purpose. The explanation that can be given here is that Phoenix used appellations of what Achilles was capable of doing to make Achilles feel like repeating dosages of what he had done before. In this way, the aim of the speech to get Achilles to go back to the war so as to put his ‘godliness’ into use could be easily achieved.

The Speech’s Style

The use of grammar in Phoenix’s speech was good to a very large extent. This is especially seen in the fact that when referring to what Phoenix had done for Achilles in the past, Phoenix used past tense form of verbs. He for instance stated that “I made you my son, I tried”. This was a perfect selection of grammar as the efforts put in to make Achilles the son of Phoenix were done in the past. There was also a lot of syntactical agreement when Phoenix used implications in his speech. Phoenix made it clear that the implication of his taking care of Achilles was for Achilles to reward him (Phoenix) when the time came. In giving the implication, Phoenix used the conjunction so to link the cause to the effect. In this way, Phoenix said, “I made you my son, I tried, so someday you might fight disaster off my back”. This conjunction was very appropriate in making the reader have an understanding that the relationship between the two parts of the sentences was an implication. The tone used at the tail end of the speech was, however, harsh for the kind of personality Phoenix was speaking to. Phoenix referred to Achilles as having a “iron, ruthless heart”. As a person with authority, Achilles could have responded in a very tough manner – regardless of the fact that Phoenix was older.

Appeals (Logos, Pathos and Ethos)

According to Noting, pathos is often associated with emotional appeal; hence, it would be said that the appeal that underlines the inventions the most is pathos. This is because throughout the speech, we read of Phoenix trying to make use of Achilles’ emotions to get him to go to war. First of all, Achilles’ emotions were provoked when he was given appellations. Secondly, Achilles was made to reason that he had had a lot of sacrifice being offered for him in his childhood, and so it was time for him to play his part by defending the people who defended him when he was defenseless.  

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