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Comparing the Myth in Ovid’s Echo and Narcissus and Wilde’s Dorian Gray

Contemporary Ancient Myth in Ovid’s Echo and Narcissus and Wilde’s Dorian Gray

Each time a story is told, elements of the original are often changed to suit new situations and current societies, or to offer a new perspective. Over the centuries, Ovid’s tale of “Echo and Narcissus” has been told many times to new audiences, and in the late nineteenth-century, it took the form of The Picture of Dorian Gray. “Echo and Narcissus” is the tale of a beautiful boy who fell in love with his reflection in a pond, and spurned others who loved him because he was so fixated upon himself. As a result of his extreme self-worship and consequent inability to love another, Narcissus perishes. Although several aspects of the original myth are retained in Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray is shocking and its characters commit acts that lead to ultimate decay and destruction. By changing elements of Ovid’s original tale, Wilde expands the myth of Echo and Narcissus to express the inevitable punishment and ruin that excessive desire brings.

The prophet Tiresias in Ovid’s “Echo and Narcissus” can be compared to Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray in that all play a role in determining the protagonists’ fate. Tiresias enigmatically determines Narcissus’ fate by revealing that Narcissus will “live to see ripe old age…If he never knows himself” (Hendricks 93). In foreseeing the boy’s future, the prophet acts as a sort of father figure to Narcissus, whose real father is absent from his life. Narcissus cannot escape from Tiresias’ prophecy, and when he gains knowledge of his beauty, or “knows himself,” Narcissus is plagued by self-love which destroys him. Thus, the prophet influences the boy’s fut…

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…ge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. 141-175.

McCormack, Joshua. “The Mirror of Dorian Gray.” The Cambridge Companion to Oscar

Wilde. Ed. Peter Raby. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 112-114.

Miller, Robert Keith. “Oscar Wilde.” Twentieth Century Literary Criticism 41 (1982). 384-389.

Nassar, Christopher. “The Darkening Lens.” Modern Critical Views: Oscar Wilde. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985. 107-114.

Nassar, Christopher. Into the Demon Universe: A Literary Exploration of Oscar Wilde. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974.

Shewan, Rodney. Oscar Wilde: Art and Egotism. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1977.

Spivey, Ted R. “Oscar Wilde and the Tragedy of Symbolism.” Twentieth Century Literary Criticism 8 (1980). 501-502.

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Penguin Books, 1949.

Philosophy of Milton in When I Consider how my Light is Spent and Borges in Poema de los dones

The Philosophy of Milton in When I Consider how my Light is Spent and Borges in Poema de los dones

Jorge Luis Borges espoused a philosophy that “all men are each other” (Stabb 52). His literature frequents the theme by finding the repetition of events that transpire regardless of the person involved. His becoming blind coincided with his appointment as Director of the National Library of Argentina, and he understood this “splendid irony of God” as another wrinkle in the circular repetition of existence. John Milton’s formal use of the Petrarchan sonnet provides a balanced structure for him to blend his experience with the general human experience, but his effort promotes an inward, self-reflective goal of trying to find God’s mandate when he becomes blind. While Borges universalizes his blindness in order to convey his idea of transindividuality in “Poema de los dones” (“Poem of the Gifts”), Milton responds to the permanence of his night by ultimately resigning to a justified ascetism, patience, and contemplation as he awaits God’s command in “When I Consider how my Light is Spent.”

A graceful tug of war between continuity and schism, a changing fusion of the personal and the universal, and a tone of resignation direct Milton to the difficult acceptance of serving God by standing and waiting. Continuity within a set of lines shapes the theme by urging the poet to continue his faith in God. Contrasts in images and audiences define the differences between the soul-seeking author and the well-meaning orator.

Petrarchan sonnets usually invite the poet to propose a series of distinct statements from line to line. Milton deviates from the anticipated sentence divisions by merging one idea within m…

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…Milton: A Structural Reading. London: Edward Arnold, 1974.

Borges, Jorge Luis. Borges: A Reader. Eds. Emir Rodriguez Monegal and Alastair Reid. New York: E.P.

Dutton, 1981.

Miller, David M. John Milton: Poetry. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1978.

Milton, John. “When I Consider how my Light is Spent.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.

Sixth Edition. Ed. M.H. Abrams et al. New York: W.W. Norton

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