Study Guide

Pygmalion Art Imitating Life

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Art Imitating Life

Artists love to mix their real life and their art. And sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference between what's real and what's not. Think about it. Miley Cyrus is a pop singer, but she also played one on Hannah Montana. Where did the character stop and the real person begin? The mind boggles.

In the Pygmalion myth, the boundary between art and life gets very blurry. Pygmalion makes a statue so lifelikethat he starts treating it like an actual person. Even as he's touching it (and, um, it's made of ivory), he keeps thinking it might be real. Seriously, every time he kisses the statue's lips, he's like, "Maybe they'll be soft this time!" (Nope. Still rock-hard.)

When the statue finally does come to life, the division between art and life completely falls away—now she's actually a real person. Art is life! Life is art! It's all mixed up.

Questions About Art Imitating Life

  1. Have you ever encountered a statue or other work of art that you thought was real? Madame Tussauds, anyone?
  2. Is it ever dangerous to think art is real? What can happen when people start to think that videogames or movies are real?
  3. How is the story different if we trust the accounts that say the statue was modeled after Aphrodite?
  4. In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, the stuffed tiger, Hobbes, was only real to the little boy Calvin. Was Hobbes less real because only Calvin could see him come to life? Is something less real because it's only in our minds? 

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