Study Guide

Echo and Narcissus Love and Lust

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Love and Lust

Imagine that you're walking through the forest. You come around a bend into a clearing and there, right in front of you, is Brad Pitt [replace that image with Angelina Jolie if Brad Pitt isn't your type]. OMG it's Brad Pitt! Your head starts spinning. Has he seen you? What if he sees you? Is your makeup okay? Does your hair look good? Should you ask for his autograph? Maybe you can get a picture with him...

This is how Echo feels when she first sees Narcissus: instant freak-out. Narcissus is the Greek Brad Pitt, and Echo falls head over heels at first sight. Being love struck on its own isn't a problem. Echo's problem is that she can't let go of her obsession, even after Narcissus has rejected her. She clings tightly to her desire long past any hope of fulfilling it, and that desire slowly eats away at her until only her voice remains. And there we have it: the inherent danger of wanting what you can't or shouldn't have.

Narcissus suffers the same fate to an even greater degree. In his case, he becomes obsessed with his own reflection. While Echo had at least a brief possibility of fulfilling her desire, Narcissus has no chance at all of ever getting what he wants. The best he can do is dunk his head into the water in a futile attempt to kiss himself. The story suggests that if he'd just been able to recognize it was hopeless and walk away, he might have lived a bit longer.

Questions About Love and Lust

  1. Do you think Narcissus would have fallen in love with himself if he weren't beautiful? Would Echo have fallen in love with him if he weren't beautiful? Why or why not?
  2. What does the story of Echo and Narcissus suggest about the relationship between beauty and desire? What does this relationship teach us about ancient culture?
  3. Have you ever wanted something you couldn't have? What was it? How did it make you feel to be unable to obtain it?

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