Study Guide

Pygmalion Obsession & Self-Denial

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Obsession & Self-Denial

By denying ourselves something, we often become obsessed with it. Have you ever turned down a chocolate smoothie, only to find yourself chugging a gallon of chocolate syrup an hour later?

Well, when Pygmalion swears off women, guess what he becomes obsessed with? Not chocolate smoothies, that's for sure. Instead, he slavishly devotes himself to a female statue, worshipping her, bringing her expensive gifts, and fantasizing in some pretty intense ways.

In Greek mythology, things don't typically turn out well for people who deny relationships and repress their sexual selves. The myth of Echo and Narcissus comes to mind. After Narcissus refuses his suitors, he becomes obsessed with his reflection in the river, and he stares at it until he dies. Wah wah.

But because Pygmalion pays tribute to Aphrodite, she doesn't punish him for refusing real-life relationships. Instead, she brings his statue to life. (The gods had a soft spot for people who praise them.) Pygmalion and his now-living statue get married and live happily ever after. So what's the moral of the story? Obsess over inanimate objects and deny yourself happiness and you'll end up happily married? Hmmm.

Questions About Obsession & Self-Denial

  1. Why does Pygmalion swear off women? Is this a reasonable action on his part?
  2. What about Pygmalion's personality makes him so obsessed with his statue?
  3. If Pygmalion had decided to find himself a nice girlfriend, would he have felt the same way about women?

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