Monday, April 15, 2013

Aurora, Sleeping Beauty, and The Waves

As we know, each section in The Waves begins with a description of the sun in the sky and its effects on the surrounding environment. This is meant to denote the age of the characters before each new section begins. The first one, as we close-read in class, is about the dawn of childhood. I have been thinking a lot about mythology and fairytales lately for one of my other classes, so I immediately thought of Disney's Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty in tandem with the godess Aurora. Woolf would not have been familiar with Disney's choice to name this princess after the godess of dawn since the movie was made in 1959 while The Waves was written in 1931, but the ideas behind the two are similar as they both refer back to the original mythology of the dawn godess.

In the Greek myth, Aurora is not a virginal character which is strange in the context of Disney's Sleeping Beauty which is about a young, virginal fifteen year old and The Waves which starts off with innocent children. The godess brings the morning every day on her golden chariot, rising first from her "couch" (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology) which she shared with her lovers. She is notorious for ravishing handsom young men and fell in love with a human whom Zeus granted immortality but not eternal youth, so his body shriveled into a grasshopper.

Disney's Aurora is based on three much racier stories which involve the princess falling asleep and then being impregnated with twins named Sun and Moon (note also that the mythological Aurora had a brother and sister named Helios and Selene who were in charge of the Sun and Moon respectively). She gives birth to them while she is asleep and wakes up to her suckling children. Disney leaves all of this out to create a more virginal, pure version of the princess (whose original name was Rosamond). Why, then, call her Aurora who is known for her sexual prowess?

Both Disney and Woolf's allusions to Aurora tie to the idea of a new day and the start of life. We see this in the first page of The Waves. This beginning, is innocent, but still somehow tainted by desire. The woman reaches up from her "couch" (Woolf 3), the same wording as in the myth,  to put the light in the sky which symbolizes the early youth of the children in the story. We later find out that their youth is riddled with jealousy for each other's physical relationships even though at this tender age, these children presumably do not really know why they are jealous but only that it seems normal to act dramatically in a situation like the kiss they all see or experience through the bushes. The argument for a tainted innocence is furthered by Molly Hite's note that perhaps Louis was interrupted by the kiss in an innocent masturbatory moment. None of the children really know why they feel the way they do in the dawn of their lives, but their desires are out of their own control.

Sleeping Beauty's virtue is taken from her by her one true love without her realizing it. She is awakened with a kiss just as Louis is, as Hite might argue, sexually awakened by Jinny's kiss. The dawnings of their sexualities are connected, perhaps, by the common thread of the godess Aurora's sexual promiscuity in association with the dawn.

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