Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 1: Deucalion and Pyrrha Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A just man named Deucalion and his devout wife Pyrrha row their boat to shore on the bank of Parnassus—a mountain that reaches the stars and that is the only piece of land uncovered by the flood. Jove is glad that the only two survivors of the flood are Deucalion and Pyrrha, both free from sin. He sends away the storm-clouds and Triton, a demigod of the sea, blows his conch shell horn to restrain the sea. The shores slowly reform, and the forests reappear.
As in the story of Noah’s Ark in the Bible, the flood in the Metamorphoses leaves two survivors, one of each sex, so that the human race can be repopulated. In the initial creation of the universe, human beings were created as semi-divine beings with dominion over animals, but after this flood, it is important to the gods that the first humans be devout—that is, faithful worshippers of the gods themselves.
Themes
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Deucalion looks around the restored land and cries because of how empty it feels. He says to Pyrrha that he fears they aren’t safe yet. He imagines how one of them would feel if the other had died and says he would have drowned himself to be with her. He wishes he had the skill of his father, the god Prometheus, to create human life. Deucalion and Pyrrha cry together and then go to a cave to pray to Themis, goddess of prophecy. They lie down, kiss the stone, and pray that the gods restore the human race.
When Deucalion and Pyrrha realize that they are the only two human beings alive, they feel extremely lonely. Instead of feeling triumphant and that they are now the lords of the Earth, they long for the human race to return so that they can live in community with other people. In this way, Deucalion and Pyrrha provide a humbler beginning to the second human race than the first (humans with dominion over nature).
Themes
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
Themis responds to Deucalion and Pyrrha, telling them to undress and to throw the bones of their mother behind their backs. Frightened, Pyrrha refuses to obey, not wanting to spite her mother’s ghost by throwing away her bones. Deucalion suggests that Themis must mean for them to throw aside Mother Earth’s bones—rocks. Still uncertain, Pyrrha agrees to try, so the two undress and scatter some rocks behind them. At once, the stones lose their hardness, expand, and take the form of humans. In this way, a new, hardworking race is started.
As opposed to the first human race, this second human race— metamorphosized out of rocks—is more connected to the earth. Ovid specifies that this race is hardworking. This seems to be due to the second race having come from the humility of Deucalion and Pyrrha and the resilient, earthy nature of rocks. In this way, metamorphosis reconstitutes the human race, and humanity’s nature evolves.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon