PRECIS: To err is only human

In Ovid's Metamorphoses, from "Narcissus and Echo" to "Pygmalion", there is a strong tendency to highlight human faults. However, though in each section a fault is pinpointed, a return answer of what could result, or what a person should be like, is written into the story. Echo used her tongue for the negative, to distract Juno, and is punished because of her deception and trickery. The moral, or lesson, to Echo's story is that one will be punished for deceiving and lying. Echo is not only punished through her restricted voice, but is further tortured by her unrequited love. Pygmalion's story describes the downfall of women and their "numerous defects" (350); a perfect woman is then given to Pygmalion by a goddess, as he will not give himself to someone unworthy and distasteful. Each of Ovid's myths tell a story about a fault which lies in humans and the ultimate solution for each. So while the stories appear to have a mostly negative tone to them, a moral is constructed subtly into each of the texts, whether through punishment, as with Echo, or through reward, as with Pygmalion. Ovid appears to believe the human soul is slowly degenerating, but he does seem to think that we can be pulled out of our downward spiral and brought back into a clearer and purer light.

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