Study Guide

Daedalus and Icarus Winged Man

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Winged Man

Humans who can fly? Awesome. The end.

Actually, there's more. Humans aren't really meant to fly—because of this, Daedalus and Icarus are pretty unusual. And as you might expect, artistic representations of the myth usually either portray the father/son pair gliding on their wings through the sky, or the moment Icarus' wings fall apart, causing him to plummet downward. The whole flying thing is definitely the most important part of this story.

We can see this image of the winged man in two ways. On the positive side, it represents man's triumph over his natural limits through science (we like to imagine Daedalus saying, "Take that, gravity!" as he launches into the sky). The image of Daedalus and Icarus soaring through the sky is a source of inspiration for inventors and explorers who look to the duo as pioneers and innovators. Oh, and we can't forget about the general sense of freedom that comes with this image. It should give hope to anyone who dreams of escaping their current circumstances and achieving something grander. Not bad.

But then there's the negative side—you know, the whole Icarus falling to the ground thing. When we look at it this way, nature triumphs over man. Sorry, man. Portrayals of Icarus' descent also emphasize the cautionary part of the myth, which is basically this: if you try to achieve too much too soon, you might end up failing miserably. Better to accept average success than to risk everything by trying to attain glory. What do you think? Do you agree?

The modern-day winged man imagery includes everything from the Wright brothers' first plane to James Bond wearing a jetpack. Anytime someone wears (or rides) a newfangled contraption into the heavens, you could safely pull a cultured-student move and remark: "That sure reminds me of Daedalus and Icarus…" We dare you.

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