Thursday, April 15, 1999

deep springs essay 2a

From the Archives
Another horrific college application essay

2.) Kindergarten teachers have taught generations of droolers: “You are special,” and “There is no one else on earth exactly like you.” It is that philosophy that has been responsible for modern man’s hubris; the excessive pride that can lead to one’s downfall. This is quite common in today’s society, probably even more so than it was in Ancient Greek drama, which used this motif in practically every play to define the tragic hero. This theme of an inflated ego can be seen in Euripides’ Medea, where the questions of “What is love?” and “What is its’ purpose?” are asked. This play is evidence of the correlation between love for another and love for one’s self.

It is the story of Medea, a bitter, side-lined woman on the verge of insanity, who’s husband, Jason, has left her for a princess. Because of this, she seeks vengeance by hurting her husband through killing his loved ones; she is still reeling from her husbands betrayal. Through Jason’s and Medea’s relationship, Euripides throws upon us the responsibility of defining love. Originally, Medea fell in love with Jason because she was in love with herself. Say what? She was so in love with herself and had such a huge ego that she needed someone else to verify her greatness by that person also being in love with her. This is where Jason fits in.

Jason satisfies Medea’s yearning for reciprocity and Medea serves the same purpose with Jason. The love that one experiences for another is really unconsciously in hopes that that person will satiate their appetite for self-worship. So one might ask about sex and lust, and how they can exist if one just loves one’s self, but these are merely primal instincts that we have created to serve as a facade and to continue the illusion that we are high and mighty beings; full of morals and compassion for others. But the truth is we’re not. We are like any other species, our primary concern is for ourselves, no matter how much volunteer work and “selfless” service one does to deny this basic principle. In agreement with Ayn Rand, nothing we ever do is really selfless: people do community service not to help other people, but they do it because of the compassionate feeling they obtain from helping other people.

Medea is the personification of these statements, her primary concern is to look out for herself. When the king hears of Medea’s plans, he gives her a day to leave town. In that one day of asylum Medea is given, all hell breaks loose, starting with Medea sending her kids to poison the princess. Both the princess and the king die to the lethal toxins that were unleashed upon them by innocent children (a wonderful example of irony). And yet, Medea feels no regret because she is blinded by revenge; instead of fleeing the town, she remains there due to either a lack of fear or a plethora of madness. Or a combination of both:

“The men of old times had little sense; If you called them fools you wouldn’t be far wrong. They invented songs, and all the sweetness of music, to perform at feasts, banquets, and celebrations; But no one thought of using music to banish the bitterness of life. Sorrow is the real cause of deaths and disasters and families destroyed. If music could cure sorrow it would be precious; but after a good dinner why sing songs? When people have fed full they’re happy already.” (p.23)

Medea has definitely not “fed full”, because she’s still not happy, even after killing the king and the princess. This foreshadows the further trouble that she’s going to cause. And the reader can also deduce that it’s going to be a big action that’s committed because “if music could cure sorrow it would be precious;” this means that music can not cure sorrow, and so Medea will probably have to resort to another act, like murder since “sorrow is the real cause of deaths . . . and families destroyed.” This is even more significant, foretelling of the possibility that she may kill her own family.

Medea is not the shy, passive woman that Greek women are supposed to be; she is the “wild woman” that Clarrisa Pinkolas Estes writes about. Medea lives outside the bounds of society, she disregards conventional wisdom and instead follows her instincts, much like the wolf simile that Estes uses to describe the “wild woman”.

Yet still, the curtain has yet to be pulled back, to reveal her most “wild” aspects. To infuriate Jason even further, Medea does an act unthinkable to most mothers: she kills her two sons. Her ego could no longer handle the fact that Jason no longer loved her, it was a blow to her hubris. She didn’t want to kill off her husband. No, that would have been to painless; she wanted to make her husband suffer the worst kind of suffering: loss and betrayal; the same feelings she experienced when Jason left her, except now on a much larger and more painful scale.

Medea killed off her own flesh and blood, not out of murderous glee, but because the kids were also Jason’s flesh and blood, a reminder of the man who had caused her so much pain. Yet, in a sense she killed off a part of her too, so it proved true that “sorrow is the real cause of deaths and disasters and families destroyed.” The final act of revenge that Medea committed was her refusal to let Jason hold or even see his kid’s lifeless bodies. She blocked the entrance to the door as he stood outside begging to be let in. There are a lot of sexual metaphors here; the closed door basically represents Medea’s closed legs, as she refuses to let Jason enter. This establishes a permanent break in the bond that once unified them. Jason has no one to go to home to; both Medea and Jason are stuck in a rut together with no one else left, including each other. Too much had happened between the two for them to ever reconcile, both of their hubris’s had led to their downfall.

“Yes, I can endure guilt, however horrible; The laughter
of my enemies I will not endure.” (p.41)

No comments:

Post a Comment