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The Tales Of Archne And Narcissus

1409 words - 6 pages

I admit right at the start of this exegesis that my focus will inevitably spiral into a strange sort of hybrid beast: a colligation of the topics pertaining to the authority and identity of mythological beings from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In honor of the English language’s unique ability to employ paronomastic devices, I will endeavor to transmogrify one topic into the other and thereby allow the notions of both authority and identity (through Ovid’s mythological structure) to exist in a state of unadulterated symbiosis. Indeed, I am fully inclined to argue that the identity of an individual is often yoked to the amount of authority placed over that person’s life. Identity is largely molded through networks of interactions, and authority maintains the boundaries of such interactions. As a result, I would argue that both topics depend on each other in much the same way a developing child relies on the connection to the mother for survival. The tales of Archne and Narcissus aptly demonstrate these connections between the notions of authority and identity. Therefore, starting first with the alteration of identity and subsequently dealing with the distribution of authority, I will demonstrate how each tale inevitably exudes each respective topic.
In the case of Narcissus, the question and manipulation of his identity are both humorously and cruelly adjusted to fit his enormous ego. Narcissus is so preoccupied with his own identity (or perhaps more specifically, his appearance) that he completely loses sight of others’ needs due to his self-absorption. Throughout the myth, Narcissus repeatedly spurns the advances of potential suitors. He is pathologically drawn to his own appearance or anything that resembles and imitates his own personality. The only voice that he finds pleasure in is Echo’s echo of his own. The first truly passionate reaction Narcissus expresses occurs only after he hears Echo mimic the tail end of his inquiry. The translation states that “Startled, he searched with his eyes all around the glade and loudly shouted ‘Come here!’” (111). Until this moment, Narcissus’s interactions with others are devoid of any emotive qualities. Only when the object of his fascination first tangibly reveals itself (his own voice) does he display any other emotion besides callous indifference. However, the moment Echo reveals herself, Narcissus plunges back into his loveless states and rejects her most severely with the acerbic proclamation of “ May I die before you enjoy my body” (111).
The brief encounter between Echo and Narcissus reveals a portentous foreshadowing of the curse that would befall the ostentatious lad. Narcissus is only delighted upon sensing an aspect of himself in another. In reality, the curse merely extends that aspect of Narcissus to an unbearable extent. This obsession with his personal being proves to be his undoing. Under the curse, Narcissus remains true to his identity. Even while pining in a wretchedly despairing...

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