(For those doing Year 12 Mainstream English this year and in years to come, this is an example of an essay for Ransom, the text response component of your Year 12 assessment)

Topic – What is Malouf saying about love through Ransom?



To establish, there are a number of different types of love, as shown by Malouf in Ransom. He demonstrates love in four main forms:


* Father to son (Achilles and Neoptolemus, Priam and Hector, Somax and his two elder sons)

* Humans to humans (Priam, Achilles and Somax being able to understand one another)

* Spousal (Priam and Hecuba)

* Brothers (Soul mates even, between Achilles and Patroclus)


Through these forms, what Malouf is saying about love is that:

* A person’s love for another can be blinding (Achilles and Patroclus, cannot imagine life without him), and so it is important to keep things in perspective, or the world of a person will be lost with the death of the loved one.

* Love can bind humans together through shared sentiment, no matter the personal circumstances of those involved (Priam and Somax’s love for their sons allows them to bond)

* Love is more than acknowledgement of offspring. It is remembering significant events and particulars about one’s son or daughter. (Hecuba remembers each child individually, Priam cannot)


Through his novel Ransom, it can be said that Malouf has much insight to provide as to different types of love, as well as what it constitutes and the actions in can cause. Malouf does this by exploring the love felt by characters Priam, Somax, Hecuba and Achilles. Through Priam and Hecuba, Malouf investigates what constitutes love for one’s child, in terms of the importance as a parent to be able to differentiate between one’s children and remember each of their unique characteristics. Through Priam and Somax, Malouf demonstrates that through shared sentiment, love can be a powerful binding agent in forging bonds between fellow fathers, despite any differences in background or experiences. Also, Malouf suggests that love can be blinding and the extent to which someone is loved must be kept in perspective, as can be seen through Achilles and Patroclus, where Malouf suggests that such love can result in the loss of one’s own soul. 


Malouf suggests that a person does not truly love their child if they are unable to even think of them as a particular person. Through Ransom, Malouf implies there is great importance in being able to recognise one’s child through personal experience. This is because by remembering one’s child as an individual, one is able to show the depth of their love for their child, and are thus able to properly call themselves their parent. Hecuba shows what it means to be a loving parent in comparison to Priam, who saw his children as little more than a ‘formal and symbolic…purchase on the future’, implying that Priam’s sons were tools for ensured continuance of his bloodline. This differs to the degree of fearsome love shown by Hecuba,  whom has been able to recall the way that each of the sons she bore ‘kicked their little heels’ under her heart, as well as being able to remember ‘the first cry they gave’ at their birth, whereas Priam is only able to recall the birth of his sons as a ‘series of small squalling bundles.’ Because of this, Malouf shows that being a parent is more than just being the mother or father of a child. Malouf shows that to be parent is to recognise each child as ‘particular’, as only then can one say what ‘it was to lose a son.’


In addition, through Ransom, Malouf demonstrates that despite differences in background, love can forge bonds not just between parents and children, but between parents as well, as a result of similar experiences. This is because we are all human, a trait that cannot be changed no matter how one has lived their life, and so love that is held between a parent and their child can be understood and related to by other parents as well, providing the opportunity for the creation of new relationships between parents as a result of similar experiences. Malouf demonstrates this through characters Priam and Somax, during their journey to Achilles’ camp. Through this journey, Malouf shows love felt for sons by two fathers, both of whom have lost their sons, and it is the sense of ‘fellow-feeling’ that allows these two men to bond and recognise that ‘all of us’ are ‘tied’ together in our hearts. It is clear that in their life roles, Somax lives a commoner lifestyle as a ‘cart-driver’, whereas Priam is swathed in ‘dazzling eminence’ from his royal ‘entrappings’ as the King of Troy, highlighting a clear difference in how each man has lived their lives. However, this serves as an ineffectual barrier in the two of them being able to understand each other as an ‘ordinary man’ and ‘one poor mortal to another’, as despite their background, both are fathers that have been ‘blessed with sons,’ and the ‘prattling’ conversations they share are able to

create ‘interest’ and ‘curiosity’ between them, so that in the end, Priam and Somax journey together not as a King and his ‘Idaeus’, but as ‘men, children of the gods’ that are tied together through the ‘soft affections’ held towards their children. 


Furthermore, Malouf provides further insight into love, in the respect of how it can lead to a man’s downfall. Malouf does this by looking into how a man’s affection and devotion to another can lead to a loss of perspective and purpose as a result of their loved one’s death. Malouf shows this through characters Achilles and Patroclus. Here, it is made clear that Achilles and Patroclus share an exceptionally strong bond, with the two of them being deemed as ‘soul mates’ and displaying profound ‘brotherly affection.’ However, it is through the affinity that they share that resulted in Achilles’s temporary downfall from one of the Greek’s most powerful warriors to a man who saw his ‘soul change color’, resulting in his own men viewing him as ‘an opposing stranger’ and ‘that he is mad.’ This is because of Achilles’ intense love for Patroclus, with him believing that ‘he could conceive nothing in the life he must live that Patroclus would not share in and approve,’ for Patroclus was his ‘companion since childhood,’ and ever since he became his adoptive brother, Achilles’ life had ‘reassembled itself’ around Patroclus. This clearly shows an intense level of love and affection from Achilles to Patroclus. It is this love that Malouf shows how a man’s love being fixated ‘around a new centre’ from their love for another will leave you ‘drowned in oblivion’, should that person be removed forcibly from your life. This is understandable, as to lose someone you have been ‘mated’ would no doubt result in severe emotional turmoil, and so your life would be ‘irrevocably changed’ by the loss of someone you love. Malouf shows this in Ransom, as seen in how Achilles’ ‘runner spirit deserted him’ as a result of losing his ‘soul mate, emphasizing the importance of retaining a certain degree of detachment in order to avoid such a drastic change to one’s personality and soul.


Malouf is able to provide much insight regarding love in terms of its forms, what it means to love, how it can forge new and unexpected bonds, and how it can bring about a man’s downfall, all through his novel Ransom. Malouf does this through characters Priam, Somax, Achilles and Hecuba, by investigating the love felt by all of these characters for sons and soul mates. Through these characters, Malouf investigates what it means to be a parent through identifying what constitutes as love towards one’s child, through characters Priam and Hecuba, In addition, Malouf shows that love can overcome differences in background by way of shared experiences of fellow men in regards to the loss of loved sons, through Priam and Somax. Furthermore, Malouf comments on the importance of ensuring love held for another will not break you as a person should the loved one be lost, as seen through Achilles and Patroclus. Therefore, Malouf offers a variety of perceptions through Ransom, in types of love as well as its impact on us as human beings. 

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