Comparing the Myth in Ovid’s Echo and Narcissus and Wilde’s Dorian Gray
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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…show more content… Basil, the painter of Dorian’s portrait, causes the innocent Dorian to realize his beauty when shown his painting. Like Narcissus, Dorian becomes vain and self-absorbed as a result of recognizing his physical magnificence. Under the influence of Lord Henry, "Dorian throws off all moral restraint and lives a life of passionate self-indulgence" (Miller 384). Therefore, the lives of both Narcissus and Dorian are shaped by the actions of their mentors.
In adapting Basil’s persona from his mythological counterpart Tiresias, Wilde alters the original character to illustrate how Basil’s excessive admiration of Dorian led to the youth’s eventual demise. While Tiresias played only an indirect role in Narcissus’ life by foreseeing his future, Basil actively leads Dorian to his corruption. Basil Hallward’s extreme fondness for Dorian arises from the inspiration that Dorian’s beauty and purity provides in the expression of his art. Basil says to Dorian, "I quite admit that I adored you madly, extravagantly, absurdly...you became to me the visible incarnation of that unseen ideal whose memory haunts us artists like an exquisite dream" (Wilde 126). These qualities in Dorian inspire Basil to visualize a new style of art "which fuses classical and romantic elements and harmonizes body and soul" (Koll 155). Basil argues that the artist