Imagine that you've been singing since you were just a little kid. (If you don't like singing you can substitute drawing, writing, crocheting, painting, dancing, basically anything artistic.) You've been singing since you were a little kid, and over time you've gotten pretty good at it. In fact, people around town have started to talk about your singing. Word spreads, and people start to come from farther and farther away to hear you sing. Everyone agrees that you're really good. They start to say things like, "he's could be the next Justin Bieber," or "she could be the next Miley Cyrus." They whisper so much that you start to believe the rumors. You start thinking, "Yeah, I really am that good. I'm better than Miley Cyrus." Eventually Miley hears the rumors. She shows up at your house, busts in, and is like, "What the hecky? How dare you say you're a better singer than I am?" The two of you get into a singing contest. You win the contest, but Miley gets angry and beats you up. Does this seem fair?
One of the chief difficulties with reading Minerva and Arachne is deciding whether or not Arachne has actually committed a crime. There's no denying that Arachne acts like a brat, but does she actually commit a crime? How much of a brat is she? Does she really deserve to die for what she's done? Maybe Arachne is only doing what any American would reasonably do. She's trying to promote her talent. You can bet that when Miley Cyrus was a little girl she (or her parents) worked really hard to promote her talent. So why is Arachne being punished? Is it wrong to be proud of your skills?
To complicate things even further, we're faced with evidence that Minerva isn't really any better than Arachne. Minerva definitely boasts about her many talents to anyone who will listen. She also gets super jealous when someone threatens her superiority, and she acts out in anger on a regular basis. Beating Arachne with a wooden shuttle until the girl commits suicide doesn't look good on a resume. Given all the evidence, we might reasonably call Minerva a hypocrite. A hypocrite is someone who accuses another of doing wrong, and then does the same thing they accused the other person of doing. If you call someone a cheater and then go cheat on your next test, you're being a hypocrite. Minerva clobbers Arachne for disrespecting her, but Minerva herself disrespects the other gods all the time. Minerva and Neptune have been fighting practically since they were born.
Questions About Justice, Judgment, and Hypocrisy
What kind of character is Arachne?
What kind of character is Minerva?
Whose side of the argument do you agree with: Arachne's or Minerva's? Why?
What does Minerva's character teach us about the nature and role of the gods in ancient cultures?