Monday, April 20, 2009

Term Paper: Metamorphosis in Our Life

Caitlin Murphey
Classical Literature
20 April 2009
Final Paper
Metamorphosis in My Life
Although to some it may seem that the topic of metamorphosis has already been exhausted in class, I feel as though we have neglected to tie it into our own lives. The process of metamorphosis can take on an infinite number of forms. Some take many years to complete, while others occur in matters of minutes or hours. Numerous transformations are evident to the human eye, while many others take place at a molecular level and are essentially unnoticeable. Such transmutations are forever and unquestionably present in the world. Every single organism in the universe undergoes some sort of transformation at some point during its own existence.
Ted Hughes’ Tales from Ovid represent only one facet of the term “metamorphosis.” Specifically, the transformations presented are more or less caused by supernatural powers and generally occur instantaneously. However, an infinite number of organisms undergo a different kind of metamorphosis every day throughout the expanse of the universe. Granted, such transformations typically require more time to occur and are often less apparent, but they still bear a significant change. Take, for example, a caterpillar. From the day that it is born it begins to grow, and after a certain amount of time in the larva stage it crafts a cocoon. Within its temporary home a caterpillar undergoes an extreme transformation, and when it reemerges into the outside world it does so as a butterfly. Although transformations such as this are so commonplace that they have lost their element of mysticism and we have a tendency to overlook them, the metamorphosis that occurs is fascinating and extremely widespread.
David Malouf presents a different kind of metamorphosis, one that we as humans can more closely relate to, in his book An Imaginary Life. Ovid’s character alters throughout the period that he spends in a foreign world due to his exile. Malouf’s story exhibits the way in which the occurrences and conversations that humans participate in, both consciously and unconsciously, mold the people that they become. Humans are an ever changing species, and we experience countless transformations throughout our lives. Our bodies, personalities, beliefs, and desires all undergo continuous metamorphosis. As a result, humans are very dynamic and the person that one of their childhood friends might remember is very likely extremely different than that same person thirty or forty years later.
Although the difference may be apparent to outsiders, pinpointing one’s own transformations can be difficult. Often, changes occur so gradually within us that they can take hold without us noticing them. Every time a child attends a family reunion and visits with people that he/she has not seen for a long time at least one relative is bound to exclaim, “You have gotten so tall!” While it is likely that the child has not really noticed the extent of his growth, it is much more obvious to someone who has not been around to see it. An example that applies to my life, and those of many other women, is a stage that I went through during my teenage years. I went from the sweet and innocent child to the uncontrollable and resentful teenager. Like many adolescent children, I had a very strained relationship with my parents during my teen years. My friends and I partook in a number of activities, some of which were illegal, that I would have never dreamed of doing a few short years before. Thankfully, I have undergone another transformation and moved beyond that stage. Even though I no longer act like I did in high school, certain aspects of my character were inadvertently shaped during that stage of my life.
While some transformations are brought on unnoticed within us due to psychological or physical stimuli, other transformations are brought on by choice. In Imaginary Life Malouf states, “We have some power in us that knows its own ends. It is that that drives us on to what we must finally become. We have only to conceive of the possibility and somehow the spirit works in is to make it actual. This is the true meaning of transformation. This is the real metamorphosis” (64). One can chose to become a better person or transform certain aspects of themselves by directly addressing whatever it is that they would like to change and making a staunch effort to do so. By choosing to immerse oneself in another culture, one has made an effort towards broadening one’s one perspective on things. Three years ago I spent a summer in Mexico and worked with the native people. Although I lived in similar conditions to those which I live in here, the majority of my interactions were with those who did not. I visited a fishing village that had no electricity and lived in absolute poverty. Even those who were considered to be wealthier could not afford a house in which each child could have their own room. The experience was both eye opening and humbling, and I truly did become a different person. Although this was a life changing experience, one is transformed by the interactions that they have with others every day. It does not take something huge to change a person. Every choice that one makes shapes who one becomes.
When assigned this paper I struggled with the task of selecting a topic that I found both relevant and intriguing. The prompt could not have been more open ended, leaving me somewhat overwhelmed. I found Dr. Sexon’s suggestion to write about what I have learned in this class and how it has affected me to be rather boring, so I elected to write about something else. However, his suggestion is in fact exactly what I have inadvertently discovered in writing my paper. I am now able to recognize that I personally have transformed as a result of taking this class. Not only has my knowledge regarding classical literature grown, but the way in which I look at the world has been transformed as well. I feel that as the semester comes to an end I have become much more capable of seeing the “eternities rather than the times,” and recognizing that what takes place around me has occurred many times before in slightly different variations. Our world is filled with metamorphosis and things are ever changing, yet as is presented in the idea of the eternal return, everything is destined to repeat itself in some form. The way in which I now look at life as well as literature has gone through a phase of metamorphosis because of the experiences that I have had in this class.

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