The story “The Cure at Troy” is based on the myth of Philoctetes by Sophocles. Philoctetes was a great hero who got fame as an archer. As a warrior, he was on his way to Trojan War when he was bitten by a serpent. Philoctetes was exiled by the Greeks due to the wound on his leg despite his stupendous efforts and sacrifices. He was left all alone on the island of Lemnos. When the war started, it was declared that without the bow that was solely in the possession of Philoctetes, war could not be won. Then they came back to Philoctetes and plead before him to rejoin them in the Trojan War.
In his play, Heany tries to explore the wounds within. He though himself bound to write on this myth which was so very well related to his own life. He being Irish must have been serving the Irish people, but he chose to live away from them in London. He was haunted by this idea and considered himself a modern ‘Philoctetes.’ The myth of Philoctetes is not limited to one person but somehow has attained universal significance.
One element that has been rightly emphasized by Heaney is the utility factor. A person is needed by both the family and the society as long as he is useful. Once he outlives his utility, there are silent cries ‘You are no more required’.
This tragic element of the myth is common when it comes to human experiences. Life is short and people need to depend on each other – that is called cooperation, which makes co-existence possible. The problem arises when people start using each other for their personal gains. Modern times are very hard as far as the preservation of ethics and morality is concerned. The myth of Philoctetes can best be applied to parent-child relationship.
When a child is born, he is dependent all in all on his parents. At this level, his parents’ utility factor is a hundred percent. As he grows and leaves the protective boundary of the house, he confronts other fellows and his intimacy level and socialization begins to enrich. His dependence on his parents decreases till he becomes financially stable. Then he considers his parents totally useless. Like Philoctetes, parents are confined in old homes or even if they are at homes, there counseling is not valued. Their existence is even a nuisance.
As far as the problems of working class are concerned, the demand for doing more keeps the workers always on their toes. They are forever lost in the haze of unfinished projects. Any damage to physical health, which can decrease the efficiency of workers, is considered as stigma and so his utility factor drops. It is often seen that such people are considered infectious as they can make the others lag behind too.
God Almighty created no one without a specific function to perform. Life is a stage and we all are actors. Everyone has his utility for a certain period of time but what after that???
Should we discard the living and breathing human beings like used-up pieces of paper?
Should one be given so much stress on his being not so actively involved in the race of life that he finds taking away his life the only solution?
If anyone of these hard times had been experienced by any one of us other than Philoctetes, one would have long been dunked in the sea. One must always remember that everyone does have a magical bow like Philoctetes through which his existence can be revitalized any moment. A man should be careful about his deeds because what is done cannot be undone.
About the Writers
Shahida Parveen is M Phil in Applied Linguistics, presently working as Lecturer in English at GCWU, Sialkot. She has a great bent towards interdisciplinary research especially in studying the literature through corpus based methodologies. She is teaching linguistics at BS and MA level. She has many publications on her part and has attended many international conferences. [email protected]
Madiha Saeed is M Phil in English Literature, presently working as Assistant Professor of English at GCWU, Sialkot. She has been teaching English Literature for thirteen years, at BS and MA levels. She is interested in Postcolonial Studies, Marxism and Ecocriticism. [email protected]