Rhetorical Analysis of “Painting of Echo and Narcissus” by John William Waterhouse





Rhetorical Analysis of “Painting of Echo and Narcissus” by John William Waterhouse


The painting of Echo and Narcissus details on the myth in the Ovid culture. Narcissus was the offspring of nymph Liriope and the Cephissus, the god of the river. The story behind the painting is one of Narcissus and the promise made to his parents. They were guaranteed that their son would live out his years if only he was kept away from looking at his image (Spaas and Selous 34). Hence, he grew up to a young man who found no interest in women and nymphs who fell in love with him. One women in particular was deeply in love with Narcissus, thus after he rejected her, she became withdrawn and wasted away. Her anguish and pain appealed to god Nemesis. The god forced Narcissus to view his image and he fell in love with himself (Spaas and Selous 35). Deeply enchanted by his appearance, he gazed upon his reflection to his death. A flower grew at the spot, which he died and was named Narcissus.


Narcissus Transformed into a Flower

There are various symbolic purposes for this transformation of Narcissus. Firstly, it shows that his beauty was not entirely of an evil nature. Hence being transformed into a flower assured that other would admire his beauty after his demise. Secondly, it also serves as an apology from the gods for his death (Ovid and Meyers 56). In essence, Narcissus was a victim of fate directed by the gods. Lastly, the introduction of the narcissus flower as originating from Narcissus himself explains its origin according to the Greek mythology.

Narcissus as Self

He is used as a symbol, which depicts the dangers of narcissism or overwhelming self-love. It also elaborates on the dangers of causing heartache to those that love is as well as rejecting unconditional love as illustrated by his rejection of Echo.


Narcissus as His name

Using Narcissus, the audience is introduced to the condition of narcissism, which has been described as one of the major traits that explains different attitudes demonstrated by people (Spaas and Selous 40). Self-obsession has thus been described as narcissus-like as derived from this myth.



The painting captures the death of Narcissus as he is wasting away at the pool while staring at his image. The mirror reflects on self-absorption while the natural setting at the riverside depicts the imaginary world where fundamental aspect is beauty.

Pathos and Logos

In the painting, a logo is appealed to the audience in the sense that Narcissus expresses the love of self by wasting away at the pool while admiring his won reflection. At this point, is narcissistic nature is elaborated. The painting appeals to pathos as it has a melancholic atmosphere (Spaas and Selous 50). This is captured by the facial expression of Echo who seems sad watching at her love who rejected her die a cruel death of fate. Owing to the fact that she echoes what is said by others, her name illustrates proper use of diction, as she is unable to create any comprehensive expression to show her love to Narcissus.

Message of the Painting

The main lesson of the painting is the danger of loving wrongly. Echo’s love is rejected and unreciprocated which results her to appealing to Nemesis who in turn initiates the process that leads to the death of Narcissus (Ovid and Meyers 60). The second lesson is one self-love and the dangers of being self absorbed. The Western culture has promoted self-appreciation. However, it warns on narcissism and the negative impact it has on an individual’s personality.


Works Cited

Ovid, and K. Sara Myers. Metamorphoses. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.

Spaas, Lieve, and Trista Selous. Echoes Of Narcissus. New York: Berghahn Books, 2000. Print.


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