Epigraph Essay

An epigraph can have many definitions. The definition used in this writing is from The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. “A passage printed on the title page or first page of a literary work or at the beginning of a section of such a work. Epigraphs, which tend to set the tone or establish the theme of what follows, are generally taken from earlier, influential texts by authors.” (Murfin). An epigraph used from Percival Everett’s novel Erasure goes on to describe the complications between what is being said and what is being interpreted or done. “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean something, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” (Everett). Words are merely sounds that a person is making. Throughout society, it is not always true what comes out of someone’s mouth. It is whether the person is trustworthy or not that makes words mean something. Within the play, The Bacchae, there were many instances of faulty impressions, whether it is words, actions, or appearances not everything is truthful.

There is a sort of irony in using this specific epigraph of Everetts for this play. It is Dionysus who wants people to believe him and the memory of his mother, that he is, in fact, Zeus’ son. He is not being truthful while trying to gain the trust of his people. His anger towards the mistrust comes through the vengeful appearance he makes. He begins his journey in Thebes as a false human, purposefully disguising himself, to create a theatrically vengeful proclamation of his anger. He plans to trick the people into thinking that he was only a mere human and then surprise them. During a confrontation with his cousin, Pentheus, he is talking about himself in the third person as though he, himself, is not Dionysus, tricking the man into speaking too honestly in front of the God. Dionysus was speaking in truth yet lacked the whole truth. There were instances when he talked in the third person, telling the truth. Then there were moments when it was blatantly lying. “He saw me and I him, and he gave me his rites.” (Euripides). This sentence could be taken a few different ways. One way is that Dionysus is insinuating that he sees himself for what he is worth. The other way to take it is that he is just lying. Euripides’ way with words here gives both impressions. “You hear my words, Pentheus, but you pay no attention to them.” (Euripides). The conversation that Dionysus had with Pentheus had many insinuations about the fact that the God himself was right in front of him. His enunciations of “I” during statements regarding the God gave hints towards to concept of he, himself, being Dionysus.   

Dionysus took his anger out on many people who did not regard him as his true person, the son of Zeus. His mother’s sisters were no exception to his wrath. “For this reason, I have spurred those same sisters to madness and driven them in distraction from their houses.” (Euripides). Dionysus, upset over his Aunts not believing in his true kinship, decides it best to make the women believe that they are mad, when they are not actually mad, out of anger. “I bring here in my arms, as you see, this prize of my valour, to be hung on your palace roof.” (Euripides). At the end of the play, it is discovered that Agaue, in midst of her man-made madness, falsely killed a lion which was actually her son. Her reality is not an honest one for, Dionysus has created a false reality that led to her praising the death of her son unknowingly. 

According to the Legal Information Institute, the definition of bad faith is: “Depending on the exact setting, bad faith may mean a dishonest belief or purpose, untrustworthy performance of duties, neglect of fair dealing standards, or a fraudulent intent.” (“Bad Faith”). Throughout schooling, it can get easy to make up lies, even a little one. The overbearing weight of procrastinating for so long that it is almost impossible to get the assignment done on time. Even writing this essay mistakes were made on my part, not remembering the due date, so here on a Thursday night, the essay is being written so that it is almost completed before work tomorrow. There are two ways to go about this situation. The first one is to lie about an extenuating circumstance and ask for an extension, though it is completely my fault for not knowing the due date. The other is to own up to the mistake made and work hard to get the assignment done. The first one is considered bad faith, a lie. The way to best go about the situation is to keep better track of assignments and make sure that my intentions and actions are always good and honest. 

It can be hard, to be honest, and own up to mistakes that you made especially if you lied about one. In high school, it was easy to get away with lying about doing something as simple as the readings for class. The punishment for not readying was not much in high school. They are not always going to find out about the lie. Going into college it is essential to do the readings. It is an essential part of being a student. It is best for my education to continue to do the readings for classes to be honest. The honest work being done through the readings and writings will make my education easier down the road.  

Percival Everett’s epigraph can be interpreted in multiple ways. Words are words. It is the meaning behind the words that matter. People have a tendency of lying. The intention that they have is not being portrayed through their words. Sometimes it can be done by anger, sadness, or just being scared. Throughout the story of The Bacchae, there were many instances where they were not truthful both with their words and appearances. This was due to the anger that Dionysus had towards the people who did not believe in him. There are instances of partial truths but, that also means they are partial lies. This can be something that commonly happens in real life for people may find it easier to lie than, to be honest. There are instances where this can happen during daily life. Whether it is in a novel or in real life, words can be hard to understand. The intentions behind them may not always be honest ones. 

Works Cited

“Bad Faith.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/bad_faith. 

Euripides. The Bacchae and Other Plays. Penguin Books, 2005. 

Everett, Percival. Erasure. Graywolf Press, 2011.

Murfin, Ross C., and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Fourth ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018. 

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