Survival and Power

Since Monday’s class, I have felt mind-boggled. I have felt this way because of a quote from our assigned Frenzy reading. In the beginning of Percival Everett’s novel Frenzy, Dionysos tells Vlepo that he is “a god, Vlepo, but [he] will die. That makes [him] different from other gods” which is both peculiar and fascinating (9).

Dionysos is a Greek god who is highly manipulative, is known for being the god of intoxication and love and is extremely insecure. His father is the Greek god Zeus, and his mother is the goddess Semele. He is Vlepo’s master, which means he controls Vlepo.

Vlepo is essentially a spirit who is referred to as representing “the human middle” (49). He is ordered around by Dionysos. Two of the powers that Dionysos has over Vlepo is that he can force Vlepo to read people’s thoughts and then report back to him. As an example, Vlepo recalls “I saw into the head of Semele, gazing deep into a well of light: Love is devouring. It eats me hourly. Like poetry, death holds no sway over love…” (14). Even while Vlepo constantly assists Dionysos, he is rarely thanked for his work. Doing such analyses on people is extremely tiring for Vlepo. He often feels rage and says he is “furious with [Dionysos], wanted to kill him, but was immediately afraid of having thought that” (70).

After thinking more about what Dionysos told Vlepo about not being like other gods, I thought quite a bit. I realized through my thought process that in general, a god cannot die but can only be cut up into smaller fragments. This makes Dionysos special in this case since he can actually die.  

In class last Monday, McCoy instructed us to form groups in order to discuss the conclusion of the Frenzy reading. My mind was immediately drawn towards Vlepo. While in our groups, I told my peers that I felt bad for him since he was bossed around by his master Dionysos. He essentially had no voice and was belittled. My group members each agreed with my point, admitting that they too, also felt bad for Vlepo.

We began to brainstorm reasons why we think Dionysos is so cruel towards Vlepo. Is it because Dionysos has this godly power? Is it because he is Zeus’ son? Is it because he is simply inconsiderate and fails to validate other people’s feelings?

Through both the brainstorming questions we created, and through my personal interpretation of the text, I arrived at my own inference. Dionysos says he is a god who is unlike other gods since he is able to die. Maybe the reason he needs Vlepo is because otherwise another person can quite literally kill him. Therefore, he is scared to put himself at that risk.

The reason why I believe Vlepo is essentially Dionysos’ savior and stops him from dying is because he puts Vlepo into the uncomfortable situations. Vlepo is the one who reads the minds of other individuals who do not favor Dionysos. He serves as the interpreter and narrator of the entire reading where he provides the reader the context of what is happening, but at the same time is also reporting considerably crucial information to his master.

To support this, there is the relationship between Dionysos and a woman whose name is Agave. Agave does not like Zeus, Dionysos’s father. The reason for this dislike is because Agave was previously jealous of her sister Semele, who was in a romantic relationship with Zeus and created Dionysos as a result of that. With her frustration, Agave questions Dionysos’ role as a god. This leads to Dionysos who punishes Agave for such thoughts. Using his powers, Dionysos sends Vlepo to read the thoughts of Agave.

“Dionysos put me upon the head of Agave. The window into her thinking was buried beneath her gray hairs, but I found stable footing and observed. The flesh of the animal will give me life, its blood will give me clear dreams of coming life or death and regained time, the gnawing on its bones will harden me for the war ahead… how we thrive away from those rodents called men!” (43-44).

While Dionysos knows Agave does not like him, Vlepo’s mind reading offers him extended information that can be used against her. He knows that she questions his godly role, but now he also knows that she views men as “rodents”. He can use her thoughts in order to manipulate her, to threaten her, or to weaken her; her words essentially work against her. This in turn helps Dionysos because if for any reason Vlepo reads the mind of someone who explicitly states hating Dionysos or wanting to cause him physical harm, Vlepo can inform him. This both increases Dionysos’ chances of survival and helps him assert his power as a god.

Both survival and assertion of power are two distinct features of Dionysos that he uses to distinguish himself as a god. Without both his distinct qualities and Vlepo, he would likely die because of another god who kills him. Therefore, the crucial role Vlepo serves in Frenzy is what keeps his master alive.

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