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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