Thursday, February 25, 2010


Quoted from a paper written by Rebecca Resinski

Pandora--the first human woman and created to cause trouble for mortal men forever--is the most artificial creature in the Hesiodic cosmos. Instead of naturally emerging from the genealogies Hesiod traces, Pandora is fashioned like a clay pot and then decorated before she is endowed with language and life. Hesiod's accounts of Pandora's creation in the Theogony (570-589) and Works and Days (60-105) are not similar in all details, but they do both emphasize the adornment of this first woman. In both works, Pandora is molded by Hephaestus and then belted by Athena. In the Theogony, Athena alone continues the extensive adorning with silver clothing, a clever veil, garlands of flowers, and a gold diadem crafted by Hephaestus. In this version of Pandora's creation, 13 out of 20 lines are devoted to her decoration. In Works and Days, the Graces, Persuasion, and the Hours help Athena to deck Pandora with golden necklaces and fresh flowers. In this narrative, Pandora's decoration is placed before her endowment with speech and personality; her adornment precedes the animation of her body and, indeed, is so bound up in the creation of her body that it is part of it. Vernant's phrasing is apt when he says that Pandora's cosmetic decorations are "integrated into her anatomy"--they are not supplemental to her body, for the first female's body is always already adorned.

If the primary focus of Pandora's fashioning is on her adornment, Hesiod's next concern is with her deceitfulness, which complements her cosmetic elaboration. Pandora's adorned body is activated with Hermes' gifts of "lies and wheedling words and a thievish nature" (WD 78) which he places inside her. A beautiful exterior with a nasty interior, Pandora is sent to Epimetheus as a tricky evil intended by Zeus to balance out the good humans received from fire. And how does Hesiod describe the evil caused by the deceitful, adorned female body and the race of women descended from it? First, of course, Pandora opens the pithos, thereby unleashing ills on the mortal world. But Pandora and women present continuing cares and dangers to mortal men, as well: for the tricky bodies and natures which women inherit from Pandora make their child-bearing a suspect activity. Perhaps women will use their crafty minds and cosmeticized surfaces to beguile their husbands out of rightful paternity. Such seems to be the worry informing Hesiod's reproductive ideal, when among just people "wives give birth to children like their fathers." (WD 235) Ideally, the external charms and internal disposition of a woman's body are deactivated and she becomes transparently the medium in and through which her husband produces offspring resembling himself.

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