Even so, our analysis cautions against uncritical acceptance of what by
Socrates’ time had become a traditional opposition between the defiant
independence of the hero and the herd mentality of the mass of men. The
Achillean hero who makes a show of fearlessly speaking his mind, even if
it angers powerful authorities, may be trying to prove he is something he is
not. Dependent on a mother’s image of him as an extension of her superiority,
he is afraid to own up to his ordinary aspirations and his dismay at her
failure to provide ordinary nurture. Desperate to appear superior in her and
others’ eyes, he makes a show of indifference to appearances. The disclosure
of his hidden self would alienate a superior mother; he presents himself as
transparent, hiding nothing. On this reading, scholars who accept Achilles’
and Socrates’ self-presentations, and their praise poets’ representations of
them, at face value mistake hero-sons’ defensive self-constructs for reality.

Becoming Achilles, 194

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