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Essay on Fate and Human Responsibility in the Aeneid

Fate and Human Responsibility in the Aeneid

If you’re going to write an epic about great heroism, don’t use the Aeneid as your primary guide. It’s not that heroism can’t be found in the Aeneid, it’s just hard to prove. First off, Virgil writes a story in a fatalistic universe, wherein every action and every event is under Jupiter’s divine thumb . Fatalism “is all-pervading in Virgil . . . in it [the Aeneid] the words fatum and fata occur some 120 times” (Bailey 204). And in the first three books alone “the word ‘Fatum’ or ‘Fata’ occurs more than forty times” (Sellar 334). Venus praises Jupiter as one who: “command[s] and govern[s] the events of gods and men . . .” (1:321-21). Furthermore, Phoebus tells Aeneas that “the king of gods allot the fates, revolving every happening . . .” (3:484-87). So whenever Aeneas wins a battle, whenever Aeneas needs help, whenever Aeneas catches a cold, Jupiter has control. And though not all events are fated (e.g. Dido’s suicide), most events are under the control of the gods . Aeneas even admits that he doesn’t have a free will (4:491-92), because he is bound for Latium. If a universe is fated, how can anybody be responsible for his or her actions? The very idea of fatalism obliterates any notion of heroism because it removes the potential for human responsibility .

Why should Aeneas be praised for conquering Latium? Why should Aeneas be called a hero? The interesting paradox within the Aeneid is the idea of human responsibility interwoven with fatalism. Though Aeneas knows that “fate has promised” his settlement in Latium (1:286-87), he doesn’t sit around waiting for Jupiter to zap them all into Latium; he is on a constant quest to settle there. And t…

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…he Aeneid. L’ERMA, di BRETDCHNEIDER, ROMA, 1983.

Henry, Elisabeth. The Vigour of Prophecy, A Study of Virgil’s Aeneid. Bristol Classical Press, Great Britain, 1989.

Lyne, R.O.A.M. Further Voices in Vergil’s Aeneid. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1987.

Poschl, Viktor. The Art of Vergil, Image and Symbol in the Aeneid. Trans. Gerda Seligson, Greenwood Press, Connecticut 1986.

Paschalis, Michael. Virgil’s Aeneid: Semantic Relations and Proper Names. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997.

Sellar, W.Y. The Roman Poets of the Augustan Age. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1877.

Silvestris, Bernardus. Commentary on the First Six Books of Virgil’s Aeneid. Translated by Schreiber and Maresca. University of Nebraska Press. London, 1979.

Quinn, Kenneth. Vergil’s Aeneid, A Critical Description. Routledge

The Search for Language in The Awakening

The Search for Language in The Awakening

Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, tells the story of a late nineteenth century woman trying to break away from the male-dominated society to find an identity of her own. Edna Pontellier is trying to find herself when only two personas are available to her: the ‘true woman,’ the classic wife and mother, or the ‘new woman,’ the radical women demanding equality with men. Patricia S. Yaeger, in her essay “‘A Language Which Nobody Understood’: Emancipatory Strategies in The Awakening,” argues that what Edna is really searching for is a female language of her own. Edna is prevented from finding her own language and ideal and therefore is trapped until she discovers that suicide is her only way out. The ending of the novel has been considered Edna’s final step in her search for freedom from the restrictive society she lives in. Elaine Showalter, in her essay “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book,” and others say that it is Edna’s last move towards female liberation, but is it really? Suicide hardly seems liberating. Edna lives in a phallocentric world where women have no identities apart from their relationships with men. Leslies W. Rabine, in her essay “No Lost Paradise: Social Gender and Symbolic Gender in the Writings of Maxine Hong Kingston,” says that “traditional male narratives” are based “on a linear and circular quest to return to a lost paradise” (Rabine 90), however, female narratives do not have this lost paradise. The world in which Edna lives traps her so that the paradise she is seeking cannot exist. The paradise Edna is looking for is nothing more than a situation in which she can be truly happy. The fundamentally phallocentric…

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…Awakening. 1993: Bedford Books, New York.

Griggers, Cody. “Next Stop – Paradise: An Analysis of Setting in The Awakening.” Domestic Goddess. Editor, Kim Wells. August 23, 1999. Online. Internet. 5-10-00.

Rabine, Leslie W. “No Lost Paradise: Social and Symbolic Gender in the Writings of Maxine Hong Kingston.” As it appears in: Wong, Sau-Ling Cynthia. Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: A Casebook. 1999: Oxford University Press, New York.

Showalter, Elaine. “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awaking as a Solitary Book.” As it appears in: Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. 1993: Bedford Books, New York.

Yaeger, Patricia S. “‘A Language Which Nobody Understood’: Emancipatory Language in The Awakening. As it appears in: Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. 1993: Bedford Books, New York.

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