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Love and Fame- A metaphoric Addiction

Love or drugs. Friends or fame. Peter Breslin, who wrote Vicissitudes of Orpheus and Randy Schmidt who wrote “Karen Carpenter’s Tragic Story”, both expressed the escapes of Orpheus and Karen. Orpheus overdosed on love while Karen overdosed on her body image. Karen and Orpheus fell into an addiction of love for fame and dieting that strained the relationships of the ones they cared about most.
Orpheus and Karen Carpenter are both rock stars with very similar lives; when fame and drugs that affected their lives both professionally and personally. Orpheus was a rock legend who lived for the spotlight and when he finally saw the reality of his life when his lover died, he realized his fame wasn’t the only thing to live for. In the story Vicissitudes of Orpheus, Breslin admitted, “But Eurydice can’t even think of refusing him, any more than the dumb beasts could; he will not be required to step out of his music and seek her; he sings and she comes unbidden to his side” (par.2). This quote shows the fantasy life Orpheus is living. He thinks because he is a rock star, everyone will love him because he is oblivious to his effect on others. He believed that being a rock star was his reality, that nothing in the world was more important than him and his music. Likewise, Karen Carpenter was the main vocals for the band, the Carpenters; but when she began to lose weight on a diet and use drugs, her life seemed to downfall on her. In the spotlight, Karen seemed confident and loved performing. But, as Randy Schmidt explained, “Offstage, she felt desperately unloved by her mother, Agnes, who favored Richard and struggled with low self-esteem, eventually developing anorexia nervosa from which she never recovered” (par.3). She battled a health issue for most of her life starting after high school. It hurt her physically when she wasn’t able to perform. She started dieting young, and once she started, she wasn’t able to stop.
In the article, “Karen Carpenters Tragic Story”, Schmidt wrote, “Karen’s quest to be thin seems to have begun innocently enough just after high school graduation when she started the Stillman water diet. Although she was never obese, she was what most would consider a chubby 17-year-old at 10st. 5lb” (par. 5). This quote shows that becoming thin was a drug to Karen. She dropped to 145 pounds. She continued to lose weight until people could see her ribs through her dress. She wanted to be perfect, and the only way she thought she could feel better about herself was by going on a diet. Once she started the diet, she couldn’t stop. It was an obsession, just like Orpheus’s obsession with being onstage and being loved by everyone. As a result, they both had unhealthy drugs they were dealing with. Orpheus had a drug for being loved and being onstage while Karen had a drug for being thin. Their drugs made them change dramatically, both professionally and personally. Karen had a harder time performing, and while on tour, when it was hard for her to balance her diet and performing. She was always tired because she didn’t have the energy to perform all night long. That was the obstacle that got in the way of the band, the Carpenters. Orpheus was so oblivious to everyone’s reaction to him and his music that he only saw the world as his stage to perform to his fans. He was so swept up in what he thought was reality, that the inattentiveness for being loved became his reality.
Whoever saw them could tell that they were damaged emotionally. After being knee deep in their drugs, Orpheus and Karen Carpenter slowly began to realize the effects of their bad habits. In Vicissitudes of Orpheus, after Orpheus lost Eurydice, he began to realize the world isn’t the fantasy he imagined. He began to feel emotional and see the world how everyone else sees it…reality. Breslin declared, “He begins to understand the idea of limit, of walls between lover and beloved” (par.3). Orpheus saw the reality; the limits in his life that he never thought he had. He began to feel the emotions after he lost Eurydice as well. Orpheus had been so caught up in his music, that he never knew what it would be like to lose someone he cared about. But once Eurydice was gone, he realized how much she meant to him and only wanted to play music for her, he didn’t want to be in the spotlight anymore. In the same way, when Karen Carpenter started dieting and losing weight, her body saw the effects of the fact she was consuming less. She became more tired and couldn’t perform as well as before she started dieting. Schmidt noted, “By the autumn of 1975 Karen’s failing health could no longer be ignored. In addition to her skeletal appearance, she was mentally and physically exhausted” (par. 19). Karen saw the effects of her dieting use. It affected her performance on stage. She was not able to function as well because she was eating less, and couldn’t be as social because she got tired easier. In the end, the effect of these two rock stars using drugs was proven to be a very bad decision.
Orpheus was so absentminded to who actually liked his music and who really cared about him. When Hades didn’t like his music, it made Orpheus realize the one person who truly loved him was Eurydice. But when she was taken from him, he was left with her “invisible presence” (par.8). As Breslin pointed out, Orpheus was “entirely withdrawn from himself, secreting a zone of impersonal music for anyone to walk through, even though the singer does not raise his eyes to acknowledge the passer-by” (par.8). He was so engrossed in himself, that once he realized what he’d really lost he never wanted to play music for anyone. Although he was prevented from seeing Eurydice, he only wanted to play music for her because he knew she was the only one who saw him as more than a rock star. Similarity, Karen’s dieting pushed her family away. When she was once close with her brother, once she started treatments, she lost all the support from her family. Schmidt wrote, “After the meeting with Levenkron, Richard became angry with the treatment plan, which he thought was worthless. He was upset that Karen had not checked herself into an impatient facility as one would do to conquer substance abuse. He and his parents returned to California and chose to keep their distance after this painful encounter” (par.44). It really put a strain on the relationship with her parents and her brother. Her relationship with her mother was already strained and this made the relationship worse. They refused to help her through this hard time; abandoning her in her time of need. Instead of supporting her, like Karen hoped, she lost her family; the ones that cared about her most. From that lack of support, instead of healing all wounds, it killed her spirit.
In conclusion, love for fame and dieting really strained the relationships in Karen Carpenter and Orpheus’s lives. It was when they needed them most, that they disappeared. Then through all the pain and suffering from losing their loved ones, they lost all hope and felt they could not go on. in both these stories, love and fame were truly addictions.




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