Study Guide

Echo and Narcissus Narcissus

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Recap: Narcissus is HOT. Brad Pitt hot. Justin Bieber Hot. You know what, just picture the hottest person you can think of: that's Narcissus. He gets it from his parents. His mother was a naiad (water nymph) named Liriope, and his father was the river-god Cephisus. He's all that and a bag of chips. You get the point? He's hot. Unfortunately, he knows that he's hot, and he's super full of himself because of it. He rejects everyone who loves him, including the nymph Echo. Eventually the goddess Nemesis punishes him big time for all the hearts he's broken.

Deciding what to think of Narcissus can be kind of tough. On the one hand, he's a huge jerk. He's so completely full of himself that he doesn't have room in his life for anyone else. He says terrible, awful, mean things to Echo. He breaks hearts everywhere he goes.

Oh, and he seems a little—dare we say—stupid? Yeah, he seems kind of stupid. Seriously, who falls in love with their own reflection, and then decides to stay? Yeah, yeah, Nemesis is partially responsible, but that doesn't make it okay. Narcissus is clearly a little crazy.

On the other hand, Narcissus is a deeply tragic figure. Think about it for a second. What has he actually done to deserve his fate? Is it wrong to want to be single? Should he be forced to hook up with every nymph that throws herself at him?

What's more, when he does fall in love, he falls super deeply in love—so much so that he's willing to die. Isn't that what we all want? Someone who loves us to death? We might say that his love is misguided, but that's no reason to hate the guy. Hey, Shakespeare made his entire career out of writing about misguided love.

However you feel about him, Narcissus has had a huge impact on modern culture. His story has inspired artists for the last two thousand years, from the wall paintings found in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii to the 1903 interpretation by John William Waterhouse. (Check out "Best of the Web" for images.)

Here are a few other things he's inspired:

  • symphonies
  • heavy metal tracks
  • books
  • poems
  • movie characters

Not a bad résumé. And then of course there's the Narcissus flower, better known as the daffodil. Oh, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Can't forget about that one.

Yeah, Narcissus gets around, and we don't mean with the girls.

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