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by Archaeology Newsroom

Uncertainty and certainty in the early Greek novel. Meanings of suicide

The young and beautiful lovers of the ancient Greek novels attempt escape from some stalemate situation which introduces uncertainty to the desired outcome of their love. In their quest for togetherness, they depart their normal environment, risking their lives, and passively submit themselves to ordeals in alien parts. They might thus be seen as fixed props on which are pinned a symbolic expression of a search for self-definition and social role. But it is while in the chaotic, alien world that the isolated protagonists find themselves most lacking in social identity; and it is also in this alien world that the individual protagonist attempts his or her own ultimate act of personal control:suicide. Typical of all suicide scenes in the novels is loss of hope, defeat and resignation. For purely personal reasons- always despair over the perceived loss of their loved one- all of the novels’ protagonists attempt, or threaten to kill themselves. Thus the protagonists’ risk-taking, which started their ordeals in the alien world, is an act born out of a feeling of uncertainty; in contrast, the protagonists’ suicide acts within their alien world ordeals arise from a sense of certainty. The protagonists’ constructed meanings for their suicide actions show that they know beyond all doubt that there is no hope of attaining their love (and social identity) in the future, that all is irretrievably lost. While the lovers, through their risk-taking departure from their homelands were communicating the question “Who am I?”, through their suicide acts they are communicating the answer “I know who I am, I am nobody”. At the determination of each suicide attempt, the individual protagonist possesses a certainty of his or her social identity as a nobody in the absence of order.