mock epic simile
Trollope writes, “As the indomitable cock preparing for the combat sharpens his spurs, shakes his feathers, and erects his comb, so did the archdeacon arrange his weapons for the coming war, without misgiving and without fear.” This simile is very reminiscent of the epic similes found in the Iliad. Compare Trollope’s simile with this Homeric simile from Iliad 8: “As a hound grips a wild boar or lion in flank or buttock when he gives him chase, and watches warily for his wheeling, even so did Hector follow close upon the Achaeans…” It is also impossible to miss the humor in the simile that Trollope concocts. Rather than comparing Dr. Grantly with a fierce animal such as a hound or lion, he compares him to a rooster. [JC 2005]
“The archdeacon, who was a practical man, allowed himself the use of everyday expressive modes of speech when among his closest intimates, though no one could soar into a more intricate labyrinth of refined phraseology when the Church was the subject, and his lower brethren were his auditors.” The use of “labyrinth” here is clearly reminiscent of the Greek myth of father and son Daedalus and Icarus. In this myth, Daedalus was commissioned by King Minos to build a labyrinth in which to hold the Minotaur, a monster that was half-man, half-bull. After having built the labyrinth, Daedalus and his son Icarus found themselves trapped inside. Daedalus realized that the only way out would be through the top, and so he fashioned wings with which they escaped, though Icarus subsequently drowned. The comparison with the archdeacon perverts the myth. Dr. Grantly’s craftiness is in his eloquence, but instead of using it to escape entrapment, he employs his eloquence in trapping his conversational partners. He uses his special skills to soar into the labyrinth rather than out of it. [JC 2005]
Dr. Grantly as a statue
Trollope’s description of Dr. Grantly just as he is about to make his speech to the bedesman is very classical in its detail. Just as Homer devotes many lines to the clothes, hair, and build of his characters, Trollope devotes a lengthy paragraph to a detailed description of everything from the archdeacon’s shovel hat–”large, new, and well pronounced”–to “his heavy eyebrows, large open eyes, and full mouth” to his “decorous breeches.” Compare this passage from Book 6 of the Odyssey: “When [Odysseus] had thoroughly washed himself, and had got the brine out of his hair, he anointed himself with oil, and put on the clothes which the girl had given him; Minerva then made him look taller and stronger than before, she also made the hair grow thick on the top of his head, and flow down in curls like hyacinth blossoms; she glorified him about the head and shoulders as a skilful workman who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan and Minerva enriches a piece of silver plate by gilding it–and his work is full of beauty.” [JC 2005]
At the end of chapter 5, Mr. Harding begins to worry that he will end up like “that wretched octogenarian Croesus, whom men would not allow to die in peace–whom all the world united to decry and abhor.” He refers to the Lydian king Croesus, whose story Herodotus tells in book 1 of his History. Croesus suffered in fulfillment of an oracle that was given after an ancestor five generations before him committed regicide. Croesus was very successful in the beginning of his life, conquering many lands and accumulating a large amount of wealth. Herodotus tells us that at his high point, Croesus was visited by Solon, a wise Greek man. Croesus asked Solon to name the happiest people he knew, and was insulted that Solon named various men who had died happily, but not Croesus himself. Croesus imagined that all his wealth and success was sufficient to secure his place on that list, but Solon warned him that anything could happen to destroy his happiness while he was still alive. According to Herodotus, Croesus eventually did lose all his wealth and almost lost his life, but was spared. Croesus is often held up as a figure who suffers due to hubris, or excessive pride, and also as a figure of the extreme wealth that was the source of his pride. [JC 2005]
Sources: Herodotus, History 1.