In Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, both authors use Greek mythology as a tool to tell their stories. Riordan uses Greek mythology to normalize what society sees as other and creates a world where being neurodivergent makes you special and gives you the ability to be a hero. Carson uses a specific myth from Greek mythology to help her tell her story. Neither of these stories are set in ancient Greece, they both bring Greek mythology to the modern world.
Riordan makes kids who are neurodivergent the heroes in his books. By doing this, he removes the negative connotation that society puts on being neurodivergent. In his story, Percy and his half-blood friends have ADHD because the hyper focus and energy help them in battle, and they have dyslexia because their brains are wired to read ancient Greek. Framing the usually negatively thought-about aspects of being neurodivergent in a positive way creating a space where kids did not have to feel bad about having dyslexia or ADHD. Well, Riordan’s stories follow the stereotypical hero trop, they are not about a specific myth whereas Carson’s story inserts a specific myth into the story. Carson’s use of Greek mythology gives her story underlying connotations and hidden meanings. She names the main character Geryon, and his main love interest is Herakles. In the Greek myth, Herakles kills Geryon as one of his tasks. Although the story does not specifically follow this myth it does imply that Geryon and Herakles’ relationship might be toxic. This is shown to be true as their story plays out.
Although Riordan and Carson do not use Greek mythology in the same way, they both use it to explain parts of their stories. Riordan uses it to explain, in a positive way, ADHD and dyslexia. Carson uses it to express Geryon and Herakles’ toxic relationship. Myths can be used to explain the unknown, I think both Riordan and Carson use mythology to explain unknowns in their stories.
Riordan, Rick. Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Disney Hyperion Books, 2006.
There is this idea that a perfect society where everyone is happy and does not face struggles is an achievable thing. In Cereus Blooms at Night, the wetlanders see their actions as moving towards that perfect society. When they invite Chandin to come to live with them, they believe they are doing something that is moving them toward a perfect society. In Don’t Worry Darling, at first it seems like they are living in a utopia, but it is actually a simulation that half of them do not know they are in.
When the Thoroughlys have Chandin come and live with them, they convert him to their religion and make him shun his family. To the wetlanders, if someone does not fit what they think is the right way to live, that person must be changed. In Don’t Worry Darling a bunch of men kidnap women they want to be their wives and put them into a simulated eutopia. The world is very heteronormative, there are only heterosexual couples, and the men go to work well the women stay at home. Everyone acts extremely happy and grateful to be apart of this society. When the main character starts to get suspicious and ask questions she is taken away and reprogrammed with electroshock to forget about the real world.
When the women are kidnapped in Don’t Worry Darling and when Chandin goes to live with the Thoroughlys they are being treated like they are unable to decide what they want. I think there is this idea that people who are apart of minorities do not have the ability to make their own decisions. Women don’t know that they actually want to be stay at home moms and take care of the household, they need to be shown that that is what they want. Chandin doesn’t know that the religion he grew up with is the wrong way to worship, he needs to be shown the correct way to worship a god. Utopian societies with a messed-up secret are a genre of horror movies. I think this is because society cannot be perfect, especially when everyone acts the same.
“The image of Suzanne and Susan holding hands as we walked Battle Rock Beach stuck with me for weeks. I knew somewhere deep inside me, rising up to press against my sternum, that I was like them. This I knew, but by the time I turned 13, it had vanished.” (Clare 154)
During this passage, Eli reflects on one of the few times he interacted with openly queer people as a child. Even at this age, he knew he was like them but cultural messages about who he should like and how he should act suppressed this realization. Being cis and heterosexual is thought of as the norm and those identities are projected on children from a young age. I think this quote shows that cultural stereotypes and norms are learned. “The image of Suzanne and Susan holding hands … stuck with me for weeks.” To me, this part of the passage is saying that representation matters. Seeing people who look, act or love like you is necessary when figuring out your own identity. When you don’t fit into the heteronormative box, seeing people who also do not fit into that box is important and can be helpful when figuring out your identity.
The last sentence of this quote “This I knew, but by the time I had turned 13, it had vanished.” made me think about when Eli was talking about being older and figuring out his identity. “I had never kissed a boy, never had a boyfriend or girlfriend. … I was not in love with a woman; I hadn’t even had a crush.” I think that the intuition that Eli felt about his sexuality is shown in these two quotes. There seems to be this idea in our culture that in order to know that your sexuality does not fit the norm, you must have sexual experiences to validate the questioning of your sexuality. Straight people are never asked how they know they are straight whereas queer people are often asked how they know they are not straight. These quotes show that Eli had an intuition and idea about his sexuality before having experiences that fit with his sexual identity. You can know that your identity does not fit into society’s heteronormative box, without having any sexual or romantic experiences.
“Run out on her? That doesn’t sound like the heroics I’d had in mind. Hadn’t I sacrificed myself for her? Offered my life for her life?” (159)
In Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson, this passage is one of the first times that the narrator’s perspective is acknowledged as being biased. Throughout most of the novel, the narrator frames themselves as a side character as other people use them as a tool to mess up their relationships. During this passage, they start to question if they actually are morally in the right. Using the phrase “had in mind” draws attention to the fact that this whole story is the internal monologue of the narrator. It is entirely their perspective of events. At this point in the novel, it seems like the narrator’s narration of the story starts to be questioned. I think that this is the start of the narrator realizing that they might have been the one to mess things up with Louise.
A theme throughout the novel was a lack of a gender for the narrator. The author frequently made the reader question their own gender stereotypes by doing this. In this passage the author uses both feminine and masculine words to describe the narrator questioning their actions. Using ‘heroics’ and ‘sacrificed’ seems like a continuation of this. Heroics is usually thought of as a masculine thing whereas sacrifices are stereotypically thought of as feminine. Running out on someone, as a way to describe leaving someone, is used predominantly used when describing men leaving women. I think that ‘offered my life for her life’ however seems like a feminine role in a relationship. This might be a stretch but in this sense, I think its referencing sacrificing your happiness for someone else’s and that to me is something that has been associated with femininity. The authors use of both feminine and masculine stereotyped words adds even more question to the gender of the narrator.