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Helen of Troy Essay Sample

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Helen of Troy Essay Sample

Helen of Troy is a powerful symbol of femininity in relation to war. Her majestic beauty, one that “launched a thousand a thousand ships” (to quote Christopher Marlowe), was the root cause of the Trojan War. Helen is a powerful metaphor for the mechanics of war—a quarrel among the gods over Helen’s beauty leads to unparalleled tragedy suffered by the Greeks and the Trojans. In modern times, politicians and dictators have used lofty causes to justify war. Nationalism, economic stability, and territorial expansion are some of the common justifications that have been substituted for the Greek gods’ “golden apple.” And just as in Greek mythology, it is the common masses that bear the brunt of war and suffer because of the folly of the modern day demi-gods—the ambitious politicians and military leaders. The masses also feel the resentment of the Greeks that is succinctly expressed in H.D.’s “Helen”:

Greece sees unmoved,
Gods daughter, born of love,
the beauty of cool feet
and slenderest knees,
could love indeed the maid,
only if she were laid,
white ash amid funereal cypresses.

Women writers have never failed to express their reactions to the horrors of war. During World War I, several women writers created profound reflections on the unparalleled tragedy that was the Great War. These writers include Vera Brittain, Eleanour Norton, and Eva Dobell. Vera Brittain used powerful mythological imagery in her poem “We Shall Come No More” to express the despair and hopelessness of war:

O Captain of our Voyage
What of the Dead?
Dead days, dead hopes, dead loves, dead dreams, dead sorrows-
O Captain of our Voyage,
Do the Dead walk again?

Celebrating women writers. Retrieved September 29, 2008, from


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