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Transformation as Punishment and Reward Essay

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Classical Literature and Mythology
Transformation as Punishment and Reward
The word “metamorphoses” can be translated as a significant transformation or change
that occurs either naturally or supernaturally. How the world changed is one example given in
Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” as it undergoes flooding to recreate purity and good that humans
replaced with evil. The way in which the world transformed has both negative and positive traits.
Transformation is also seen to occur within a person and how they are able to adapt to things that
are changing around them. This personal change can serve as both a good thing like a reward,
and a bad thing, like a punishment. Transformations occur in the supernatural world as well as
the natural world and can be portrayed differently through physical challenges and hardships,
coping mechanisms, and someone personally growing and improving themselves. The only way
to cope with such transformations is to be transformed into something immobile or inanimate
(Harris and Platzner 924).
The first example seen in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” regarding transformation is the world
and its creation. During this time, there is a lot of change happening. Similar to the biblical
account of creation, there is a massive flood that aims to act as a transformative punishment
towards humanity. The gods felt as though mankind had become too evil and needed to be wiped
away, as well as the idols and material things they worshipped. The flood brings strain and
physical difficulties upon the people in the story as they are covered by the waters including
everything they have built. “If any building stands firm, the waves keep rising over its roof-top,
its towers are under water…everything is ocean” (Ovid 938). This would be seen as both a form
of supernatural punishment and a reward because of the newness that came after the flood. While
humanity lost all of their belongings, including their homes, animals, farms, and food, the gods

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flooded the world to bring peace and renewal to the world (Harris and Platnzer 938). This event
showed a change from chaos to order and from motion to stability or equilibrium (Harris and
Platzner 925).
Ovid uses Hercules as an example of change and personal growth as he describes how he
grew into a god who attained a higher divinity and status. Throughout the story
“Metamorphoses,” Hercules remained unrecognizable, but when he put aside mortal limbs and
attained power, he started being viewed as larger and taller, more majestic, and godly (Ovid
953). Part of Hercules changes from mortal to immortal and this occurred supernaturally. He
says that “still part of me, the better part, immortal, will be borne…I shall be living always”
(Ovid 963). Hercules would be seen as someone who went under a positive transformation, or
someone who was rewarded since he lived a life that was heroic and honorable and because of
his good deeds, he was rewarded with immortality and was changed for the better.
Another example of transformation that occurs in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is his
explanation of Apollo and his sexual harassment of Daphne. This encounter can be seen as both
a result of a positive and negative transformation. Cupid shoots two arrows, one of which falls on
Apollo who starts to pursue Daphne (Ovid 942). The second arrow fell on Daphne. Daphne was
not recipient to Apollo’s love and instead cried out for help from her father to stop Apollo.
Daphne’s father heard her cries and decided to transform her into a tree to protect her: “Her
limbs grew numb and heavy…her hair was leaves, her arms were branches and her speedy feet,
rooted and held…everything gone except her grace” (Ovid 944). This encounter is seen as
negative because of Apollo’s unfortunate sexual desires for Daphne who shows no interest. The
encounter can also be viewed as a positive transformation however, due to the fact that Daphne
was able to cope with her negative situation by being changed into something immobile or

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1 Classical Literature and Mythology Transformation as Punishment and Reward The word “metamorphoses” can be translated as a significant transformation or change that occurs either naturally or supernaturally. How the world changed is one example given in Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” as it undergoes flooding to recreate purity and good that humans replaced with evil. The way in which the world transformed has both negative and positive traits. Transformation is also seen to occur within a person and how they are able to adapt to things that are changing around them. This personal change can serve as both a good thing like a reward, and a bad thing, like a punishment. Transformations occur in the supernatural world as well as the natural world and can be portrayed differently through physical challenges and hardships, coping mechanisms, and someone personally growing and improving themselves. The only way to cope with such transformations is to be transformed into something immobile or inanimate (Harris and Platzner 924). The first example seen in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” regarding transformation is the world and its creation. During this time, there is a lot of change happe ...
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