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A Rose Essay

2215 words - 9 pages

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________Professor WhitakerENGL 693October 22, 2009False Reflections in Romance of the RoseFrom its inception, The Romance of the Rose has been described as a "Mirror of the Amorous" (Gunn 33). This second title given to the book is doubly meaningful as it signals both the purpose of the text, which is the theme of love, and the didactic technique the text employs to teach its readers; the story is meant to mirror human vices in order for readers to reflect on their own exploits. Not only is the text itself meant to act as a mirror, but mirrors and reflective surfaces are also utilized within the story as symbols for vanity and narcissism. Of these reflective surfaces, the "Fountain of Love" is the most important, as both Guillame de Lorris and Jeun de Meun use this fountain as a metaphorical mirror meant to highlight the dangers of vain self-love for the Dreamer, and by extension, the reader. But before the "Fountain of Love" can be explored, there is an important moment in the beginning of the tale that immediately denotes a negative connation toward mirrors. The Dreamer is first let into the garden by a woman, described in beautiful detail, including, "There was never a girl more elegant or better arrayed…and in her hand she held a mirror" (de Lorris and de Meun 38). At first glance, the Dreamer's initial description might seem innocent, as it focuses solely on the girl's physical appearance, emphasizing her beauty. However, upon closer inspection, there is already a hint to more devious intentions in the line, "Both sleeves were well sewn into a beautifully snug fit" (Lorris and Meun 38). To a modern reader, there is nothing lascivious about tight sleeves, but research done by Graham D. Caie indicates, "To have well-sewn, close fitting sleeves…was a mark of the servants of the God of Love" (321). In addition, "Those who have given themselves up to lechery [St.] Jerome describes symbolically as having 'their arms bound in tight fitting sleeves'" (qtd. in Caie 322). Therefore, the girl's tight fitting sleeves are not a minor detail of her dress, but a subtle warning to readers that she is not as desirable as she appears. Any doubts about her immorality are confirmed when she introduces herself as "Idleness" (Lorris and Meun 38).This brings us back to the mirror she is holding in her hand, for Idleness admits, with pride, "I have no other purpose than to enjoy myself and make myself comfortable, to comb and braid my hair" (Lorris and Meun 38). Essentially, Idleness spends her days staring at herself in a mirror and fixing up her appearance. This is the first indication of one of the main themes of the book, "[Idleness's] association with the comb and mirror looks back to that prototype of narcissistic lethargy" (Harley 325). This "narcissistic lethargy" also points in the direction the tale is moving, which is toward the famous fountain where Narcissus falls in love with himself, known in The Romance of the Rose as the...

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