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Pathways of Artistic Relation, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 890

Essay

Writing through the perceptions of the character(s)- most frequently at the beginning and/or end of a work- developed into an advanced literary technique known as frame narrative. Literature often begins with awkward introductions, but this technique enables the reader to begin their journey in a moment of heightened tension, viewing the story arc as one complete development in the character(s)’ perspective without necessarily knowing the reason for the psychoanalytical biases which naturally exist within that point-of-view. Thus, immediate curiosity and sympathy develop. Despite the shared use of framed narration, the books of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, and the Arabian folk tales of A Thousand and One Nights represent entirely different purposes and artistic styles.

When Jupiter sends Mercury to rid the world of Argus, Mercury calms the creature with hundred eyes by telling him the story of Syrinx. In true frame narrative style, the selection of the tale-within-a-tale conveys important thematic messages and morals. Syrinx transforms from a nymph into a reed, humbling him/ her and making him/ her vulnerable; the mighty are brought low, as is Argus, whose head is immediately cut off. Within the narrative, the goddess Venus tells the story of Atalanta’s beauty—so powerful that it rivals that of Adonis and Venus herself and moves young men to risk their lives in pursuit of her hand in marriage. Typically, Venus becomes jealous of her beautiful rivals, yet she speaks with sympathy of Atalanta, who “spoke like a girl who has never fallen in love before, not knowing what she is doing, not understanding her feelings.” (Book 2) Eventually their pride brings them low, and Atalanta and her husband offend the gods and are transformed into lions. Metamorphoses recounts these tales as both theological truth and as moral lessons of humility, bravery, strength, intelligence, and faithful devotion, allowing mere mortals a rare glimpse into the psychoanalytic processes of the gods, which further emphasizes the need for humility. Much of these two tales is told with great sympathy, a contrasting perspective from the distant, removed master strategists playing with their chess pieces, as the pantheon was frequently portrayed in ancient Mediterranean culture. As the introduction to this book explains, this view renewed the popularity of these gods but was quickly stifled as progressive fiction when Augustus Caesar came to power in Rome. (iii-xi)

Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron approaches the frame narrative with less reverence and generous doses of irony and disappointment. Boccaccio relishes his narrative embellishments as surely as Ser Ciappelletto grins as he makes false confessions of chastity, generosity, and saintly piety. (29-33) Knowing the truth of Ciappelletto’s life allows the readers to appreciate his lies as a tale of humor told at the expense of the gullible. If the tale were told without ample introduction it might seem as though Boccaccio mocked religion in general. Edmund Burke said that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In Novel VI, Emilia demonstrates that even wisdom must be administered with caution. Her tale of the impious priest could easily be dismissed as blasphemy similar to the drunken words which the priest uses against the wealthy, worthy man but provides a careful warning against the excesses of self-righteous power and of the aristocracy in whose presence the story was told. (43-45)

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights begins by leveling with readers, remarking that the legends of generations past may only be legends, but there is a brotherhood of mankind and its many nations which transcends the importance of these details. After having his world devastated by his cheating wife, king Shahryar remarks that his wife took his affection and “emptied it into a pool of mud.” (McCaughrean 2-3) Since his brother also had discovered his wife’s indiscretion, the narrator describes their parasitic hatred of women, writing that “night fell in their hearts.” (4) Opening the collection of tales with such intrigue and the near-excited tone of the author’s explanations forms a subtler frame narrative. Of course, the most famous example from the book comes from the account of how Shahrazad, the royal Wazir’s daughter, tempers this cynicism with the patience, kindness, love, and captivating storytelling. The doubly-framed narration indicates the two-fold nature of the night upon the country and its king: the literal time period during which Shahryar develops true love for a new wife and the figurative time which he spent in doubt and hatred. The implied narrator offers insights and the tales of Shahrazad forward the movement of the plot.

Ovid teaches; Boccaccio mocks; legends inspire. Throughout the differences of personal artistic styles and purposes- and the influences of literary and folk trends and the constraints of expectation- the framed narrative allows storytellers to present story aspects in a manner which fully conforms to their intent for the readers, to directly manipulate how the readers’ knowledge of the story and its characters begins and evolves. Frequently utilized at the end of novels as well, this technique allows the tone and moral of the story to be clarified and for a satisfactory conclusion to weigh the value of these elements in relation to one another.

Works Cited

Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. Digireads.com. 2010. Print.

Martin, Charles (trans.) Ovid. Metamorphosis: A New Translation by Charles Martin. W.W. Norton & Company. 2005. Print.

McCaughrean, Geraldine (trans.). One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Oxford University Press: USA. 2000. Print.

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