The Golden Ass Essay

The Golden Ass Essay

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In The Golden Ass, Lucius draws a strong parallel between the stepmother’s story and that of Meroe, the evil, old witch who kills Socrates when he tries to escape her lustful affections. The stepmother is metaphorically likened to a witch because doing so comments on the danger of a weak-natured woman who holds a position of power. Although no magical evils, such as the spells that Meroe casts upon Socrates, manifest themselves in the story of the stepmother, the emphasis on the unnatural transformation in her disposition and the perverse and sinful nature of her wanton affections symbolize her witchlike nature. The similarity between the two stories helps to fortify the connection between witches and women in a position of power, which ultimately condemns the latter while simultaneously upholding male legacy.
Both concrete similarities between the characters of the stepmother and Meroe and metaphors in the story of the stepmother that are meant to represent the magical elements in the story of the witch connect the two stories. Initially, there are several concrete similarities between the stepmother and Meroe. The first likeness the stepmother bears to the witch is her position of power. After she decides to kill her stepson, she enlists “the aid of a villainous slave, part of her dowry” (174). The fact that she has resources of her own makes her powerful and all the more dangerous. Her possession of a slave and her ability to procure poison, though also metaphors of the deadly spells Meroe casts upon Socrates, are most prominently concrete representations of her status of power. A second similarity is that the stepmother and Meroe are both notably older than the younger men they prey upon. This detail helps to accentuate the i...


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...mmoral decisions. In contrast, Lucius rewards subservient women, such as the victimized Charite and his lover Phobis (before she oversteps her bounds as a servant and mistakenly turns him into an ass), with favorable descriptions and virtuous qualities. However, anomalous Byrrhena is a woman of power but Lucius does not condemn her with a weak nature and a corrupt character. Rather, he attributes her power as a motherly influence and describes her as caring for him. In this way, she is contrasted with the seemingly childless, old hag, the witch Meroe, and the evil stepmother, so vile that she is not bothered when she accidentally poisons her own son and even using the mistake to take her revenge. Therefore in both fantastical and societal realms, women in The Golden Ass are praised when they are subservient and faulted when they misuse power with corrupt motions.


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