Aeneid, a Poem by Homer and the Theme of Individual Struggle Between Love and Duty
Battle Between Love and Duty
Dido made Aeneas forget about his duty for some time, but in the end, duty matters more than romantic love, and his feelings will always come in second. But when Aeneas leaves because of duty, the love that Dido felt creates pain that often needs to be hidden away, although it is sometimes too much to keep in. On the other hand, a lack of romantic love, which Pete Mecca dealt with while being in Vietnam, can also lead to a positive outcome of longer service and less worries. I have chosen to write on duty versus love because as an army girlfriend, I will also be able to include my thoughts, as well as my boyfriend’s, who is currently in Afghanistan.
Love can make you, or the one who loves you, want to just talk about anything to get to have a full conversation, but it can also make you forget about your duty and what you need to do. This is evident in Virgil’s Aeneid in Book 1 when it is said that “luckless Dido / drew out the night with varied talk. She drank / long love and asked Aeneas many questions: / of Priam; Hector; how Aurora’s son / was armed; and now, how strong were Diomedes’ / horses; now, how tremendous was Achilles” (1.1044-1048); she most likely was not trying to talk about heroes and wars, but she just wanted to speak to Aeneas. I can agree with Dido here that when this is what is on their mind, and it is what they want to talk about, you listen. The night before Phillip left for Afghanistan, he was excited about his first combat deployment, and we stayed up talking until 7 am about our lives and about what he was going to be doing over there. We only had so much time to talk, and we were both willing to talk about whatever the other person wanted. After my interview, I spoke with Pete Mecca for a bit about the interviews he does with veterans and about Phillip. He told me that communication is important; it is good for them to receive packages and letters over there because it makes them feel loved and encourages them, so I was glad that I have been able to keep in touch with Phillip quite a bit. But as we see in the Aeneid when Aeneas delays leaving and makes it clear that he only leaves because of duty, having a romantic love at home can make it harder for them to leave. Phillip’s deployment could not have come at a worst time because we had just started to date, and even though he wanted to get a combat deployment in, his mind changed fairly quickly, and he no longer wanted to leave. “Pious Aeneas” (1.534) and Phillip both had no choice but to leave because when it comes to war and duty, love always comes in second, something made clear when Captain Harrison barely made it in time for his wedding. An interaction that I hold dear between Aeneas and Dido includes “Her speech is broken off; heartsick . . . But though he longs to soften, soothe her sorrow / and turn aside her troubles with sweet words, / though groaning long and shaken in his mind / because of his great love, nevertheless / pious Aeneas carries out the gods’ / instructions. Now he turns back to his fleet” (4.533-545) because it resembles an interaction a soldier and his loved one would have before a deployment, except Aeneas knows he won’t see her again; Phillip’s last words to me before he left for the plane were “I’ll see you in four months, okay?”
I am blessed to be with someone who tells me as much as he can without breaking the rules of his security clearance, but with that comes lots of worrying that needs to stay hidden away on my part. I get the occasional “I’m going out on convoy” or “I’m working tonight, should be quick” and although it is nice to know that I shouldn’t expect to hear from him for a while — I would probably freak out if I didn’t get a message or a call for two-three days —, I also can’t stop worrying until I get a text saying that he is back and is safe. But because I don’t want to bother him or to worry him about my feelings, I don’t say anything. I know he has bigger things to worry about and I keep my fears and thoughts to myself. “The supple flame devours her marrow; / within her breast the silent wound lives on” (4.88-89) in the fourth book points out that love is inward and internal, which is how it must be when a loved one is serving. Although Dido cannot keep it in any longer and kills herself as she “mounts in madness that high pyre, / unsheathes the Dardan sword” (4.893-894), I can relate to her very strongly and realize that sometimes I can’t keep it in and I either ask questions that I shouldn’t be asking, including “would you tell me if you killed someone” and “where exactly are you going” or I say things such as “I wish you could come home already, this isn’t easy.” Dido also represents the life as an army girlfriend and families’ values because she listens to his stories without complaint, puts him above her life/duty while he puts his duty above her, and tries her best to keep her pain to herself to make his life easier. Their marriage — or lack therefore — represents the difference between being an army wife and being an army girlfriend; had their wedding ceremony been valid, she would have had more rights and would likely have followed him, as an army wife would, but because it wasn’t, she is not recognized as anything important and has almost no rights, like an army girlfriend. An army wife gets to be on based, is allowed to have more information about the deployments, and gets told if something happens to her husband abroad, but a girlfriend needs a visitor’s pass to get on base and only gets so much information about deployments, much like Dido in regards to Aeneas’ departure.
But Pete Mecca, the veteran I interviewed, was not involved with any romantic love during his deployments to Vietnam. Even though I had expected for that to have an adverse impact on him, he believes that it had little to no impact on him and led him to serve for two and a half years, something he might not have done if he “had had someone to come home to.” As we talked to him about family members and relationships, he mentioned that the reason why he kept going back to Vietnam was that he was not involved with anyone and therefore had no one to go home to, even though he did have a family. This showed me that coming home to family versus coming back to a romantic love is different, and I realized that this is shown in Virgil’s Aeneid since he accomplishes much more when he is not romantically involved — he travels, fights, and explores — even though he has the gods, including his mother, Venus, and Rome to found for his descendants. But throughout his voyage, they are on his side supporting him, just like Pete Mecca had the full backing of his family, who even sent him care packages during his service. Venus cares for her son, as seen when she says “what great offense has my Aeneas given, / what is his crime…” (1.323-324) because she is worried about his fate, and it is clear that Gods uses divine intervention to get Aeneas to where he needs to get. Jupiter already knew that Aeneas would come home to Italy, as seen when he says “I unroll the secret / scroll of the Fates…/ [your son] shall wage tremendous war in Italy/ and crush ferocious nations and establish/ a way of life and walls for his own people” (1.365-369), and even though Pete Mecca’s family did not know whether or not he would make it home, they sure hoped so and did their best to help him however they could.
Although romantic love can create a support system and is something to come home to, it can also lessen the sense of duty felt by soldiers, like it did with Aeneas when he was with Dido. But in the end, duty comes above love and they must follow orders, whether they come from their commanding officers or the gods. But for those many soldiers without romantic love, such as Pete Mecca and Aeneas in many books, it leads them to serve and travel more; Mr. Mecca spent two and half years in Vietnam and Aeneas made it to Italy.
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