Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso)

Ovid Publius Ovidius Naso), the famous Latin poet. Ovid’s character ranges from the self-indulgent frivolity that characterized the real Ovid while he was in exile from Rome in the last decade of his life to the more somber and pensive attitudes that are found in the fictional protagonist. The work is told from the poet’s point of view, in the first person. In his place of banishment between the Danube and the Black Sea, the fictional Ovid finds his surroundings cold, bleak, and desolate; however, he reflects that exile is a state of mind. The effects of age and isolation beset him at first. He is fifty years old at the outset, and he wonders whether his writings have been preserved at all in the imperial capital. At times, he muses on earlier memories of Italy. In due course, he finds a sense of closeness to nature, indeed a sense of mystery, in the rude and untamed, but also unspoiled, setting into which he has been cast. Although as an accomplished writer he feels out of place in a locality where his own language is not known, eventually he comes to understand the natives’ speech almost as well as Latin. He feels little impulse to indulge in any expressions of disdain for the rather modest level of culture found in those around him. He takes a pronounced and touching interest in the Child’s needs, and when he discovers that the boy is in danger, Ovid takes the Child with him into the steppe to the north, where...

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The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

It is helpful to be clear about what this novel is not doing or attempting to do. David Malouf is not attempting to portray the real Ovid. Indeed, little is really known about Ovid, save for that which can be guessed from his substantial body of work. What is known, however, suggests that he was not quite as romantic or deeply sensitive as Malouf would have him. The last of the great Augustan poets, Ovid is usually seen as the least profound of the group and, in many ways, closest to the high sophistication of Roman society. Malouf is aware of this, and his afterword to the novel is helpful in revealing his intentions for the Ovid of what is cheerfully admitted is “an imaginary life,” taking for its basis a character whose response to adversity has lyrical and mystical implications which are not to be found in the work of the historical Ovid, whom Malouf perceptively calls “this glib fabulist.”

The character who dominates this novel, and who is the sole speaker in the same, is a man of considerable range of feeling. The first-person narration allows for an intimacy which is enriched by the fact that Ovid is speaking directly to a later audience, to the modern reader, presuming that this record of his life will be read some centuries hence. This tale of exile, of the pain and suffering in both the physical and psychological sense visited upon the mature darling of high Roman society, is not seen by Ovid as meaningless, and the manner in which he responds to squalor and barren poverty is shaped with some propriety in poetic terms....

(The entire section is 634 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Eldred, Kate. Review in The New Republic. CLXXVIII (May 13, 1978), p.36.

Kramer, Leonie, ed. The Oxford History of Australian Literature, 1981.

McNeil, Helen. Review in New Statesman. XCVI (September 15, 1978), p.338.

Matthews, John Pengwerne. Tradition in Exile: A Comparative Study of Social Influences on the Development of Australian and Canadian Poetry in the Nineteenth Century, 1962.

Pollitt, Katha. Review in The New York Times Book Review. LXXVIII (April 23,1978), p. 10.

Portis, Rowe. Review in Library Journal. CIII (March 1,1978), p. 587.

Ramson, W. S. The Australian Experience: Cultural Essays on Australian Novels, 1974.