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Julianah Oguntala

on 23 September 2013

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Greek myths were written for entertainment and to explain natural phenomenons. They explain simple questions that shake the foundation of our world. The myth "Demeter and Persephone" is important for many reasons. Three of these reasons are: it explains a natural phenomenon, it shows the emotional sides of Demeter and Persephone, and it resembles the cycle of life and death.


Plot Graph
The main theme of the myth is the strength of love between a mother and her child. After Hades took Persephone to the underworld, Demeter dropped all her responsibilities (including caring for the crops), and even faced the Lord of the Dead, Hades, to get her daughter back. This shows that parents are caring, and would do anything for their children (except for Zeus, since he did not show any emotions whatsoever when he found out that his daughter had been kidnapped).
Another theme is that love can make you do crazy things. Hades fell in love with Persephone, so he kidnaped her, and made her his bride. Hades was too blinded by his love for Persephone to be able to see that what he was doing was wrong. Hades should know that if he wants to show affection, he should not just go around kidnaping every woman he finds attractive.

There are three major conflicts in the story: man vs. man, man vs. society and man vs. nature.

In man vs. man, the main fight is between Demeter and Hades. This is because Demeter loves her daughter who is kidnapped by Hades. This causes hatred toward each other so it is man vs. man.

In man vs. society, Hades kidnaps Persephone. That is against all morals and against the way things was run then. Another example is prearranged marriages. This happens when Hades kidnaps Persephone to be his wife without her consent.

In man vs. nature, Demeter defies their laws of nature by letting all the crops die. Back then this did not happen.
Impact on Modern Day
Rising Action
Demeter once had a daughter named Persephone, a child she had with Zeus. Demeter, the goddess of all useful fruits, grasses and grains, was always happy and cheerful, and as a result, the crops on Earth grew abundantly all year round.
One day, King Hades, the God of the Underworld, made one of his rare visits to Olympus, where he fell in love with Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Without consulting with Demeter, Hades directly asked Zeus for permission to marry his daughter. As Zeus hesitated to reply, Hades decided to take matters into his own hands.
One day, when Persephone decided to go to the fields to collect poppies, Hades made the ground around her gape open. It was at that time Hades appeared from the Underworld, grabbed Persephone into his chariot, and stormed back into the earth. Persephone gave a loud shriek of terror, which was heard by Demeter, but by the time she reached the scene, her daughter had already disappeared.
In the next few days, Demeter frantically looked for her daughter, but with no result. The only news she received was from Hecate, the witch goddess, who stated that she had heard a plea for help from a girl who was being carried off. But, by whom, she did not know.
Ten days after her daughter's disappearance, Demeter traveled to Eleusis, where she was given shelter by Celeus, the King of Eleusis. As a gift, Demeter offered immortality to Demophon, Celeus' son, but as she began to put the child in an open fire, she accidentally dropped him in the flames, and therefore killing him.
So, Demeter decided to verify Triptolemus' information by confirming with Helius, the Sun God, who sees everything on his daily route across the sky. Helius confirmed that he had seen Persephone being taken away. When Demeter asked Helius who had abducted her daughter, he replied that it was Hades.
Demeter, now angered at Zeus for allowing Hades to kidnap their daughter, refused to allow the crops on Earth to grow. Seeing as the mortals would not be able to offer sacrifices to the gods, Zeus attempted to cheer up Demeter multiple times, but he was always unsuccessful.
At this time, Triptolemus, Celeus' eldest son, entered the room, and told Demeter of the events that his brothers had seen ten days ago. He states that his brothers had seen a chariot holding a dark figure and a frantic girl plunge into the earth.
Desperate for a solution, Zeus sent down Hermes to the Underworld to bring back Persephone to her mother. Hades told Hermes that Persephone may return, on the condition that she has not eaten the food of the dead. As the chariot was being readied, Ascalaphus, Hades' gardener, whispered to his master: "I saw Persephone eat seven seeds from a pomegranate." As pomegranate was a food of the dead, Hades ordered Ascalaphus to follow Hermes and Persephone back to the surface.

As Demeter and Persephone happily embraced, Ascalaphus delivered the bad news to Demeter- her daughter must return to the Underworld.
Falling Action
Still without a solution, Zeus pleaded to his mother, Rhea, to help him break the deadlock. Rhea proposed a compromise: Persephone would remain with her mother in Olympus for two thirds of the year, and the remaining third of the year in the Underworld with Hades.
As a result, we now have different seasons. The third of the year, when Persephone is down in the Underworld with Hades, we have winter and no growth of crops, as Demeter is unhappy and gloomy. When Persephone returns to her mother for the remaining two thirds, Demeter becomes cheerful, and so we have spring, summer, and fall, the growing seasons for plants and fruits. As for Triptolemus, he was awarded by Demeter with a bag full of ripe ears of wheat, which he used to teach men how to harvest grain crops. He later replaced Celeus, his father, as the king of Eleusis, and he instituted a festival in honour of Demeter and Persephone, in which the Greeks believed to attend in order to please the gods.
The myth of Demeter and Persephone shows the creation of winter. This myth has inspired many people to study, and educate others on the message of this story. They express that the story of Persephone and Demeter captures the importance of a natural cycle. As the back and forth travel for the goddess brings the different seasons, her transition resembles the birth and death cycle of all living things. This gives reason as to why we have different seasons and their creation. The characters Demeter and Persephone are also used in many modern day novels. In the Stephen King book “Duma Key” the character "Perse", being short for Persephone, is the antagonist to the main character. Emily Whitman's “Radiant Darkness” also involves the myth of Demeter and Persephone. The novel follows the same plot line but is set in modern day. Along with their appearance in modern literature, Demeter is also featured as a scientific title. A main-belt asteroid orbiting the Sun, was discovered by Karl Reinmuth, and named 1108 Demeter. Some of the greatest impacts from this myth are the different festivals. Thesmophoria was a festival held in Greek cities, in honour of the goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone, and is still recognized today.
The first reason why the myth "Demeter and Persephone" is important is it explains why we have seasons. While Persephone was in the underworld, she ate pomegranate seeds, “the food of the dead”. As a result of this action, Hades was able to lay a claim on her. However, a compromise was reached after Zeus consulted his mother, Rhea. Persephone would spend a third of the year in the underworld and the other two-thirds on month Olympus. Demeter was not pleased with this so she decided that she will not tend to the Earth’s crops while her daughter is in the underworld. Through this decision, the seasons came about. When Persephone is in the underworld, it is winter on the Earth and the ground yields nothing. When she returns to Mt. Olympus, spring starts and it progresses into summer. The ground yields a lot and the harvest is plenteous. This is one the importance of the myth Demeter and Persephone.
The second reason why the myth "Demeter and Persephone" is important is it shows the emotional side of Demeter. In this myth, we see that the Greek gods and goddess have feelings and can get very sensitive. In the myth, when Persephone was missing, Demeter was grieving and distressed. She, a usually calm and considerate goddess, forgot about the mortals and neglected their need for food. She suffered before her daughter was found. Persephone also suffered because she was forced to leave her mother and go to a dark and dreary place to live for a third of each year. This is yet another significance of the myth Demeter and Persephone.
Emotions of Demeter and Persephone
The third reason why the myth "Demeter and Persephone" is imperative is it resembles the cycle of life and death. Everyone on Earth will die sooner or later. In the myth, as Persephone descends into the Underworld for a third of the year, it represents death and the earth is frozen with no life. As she ascends unto Mt. Olympus to spend two thirds of each year, this represents life and life is springing from the earth. This goes in a cycle representing life and death.
LIFE and Death
In conclusion, the myth Demeter and Persephone is important for many reasons. Three of these reasons are it explains why we have seasons, it shows the emotional sides of Demeter and Persephone and it resembles the cycle of life and death.
"Demeter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demeter#Portrayhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1108_Demeter>

By: Jordan Levy, Julianah Oguntala, Sean Palter, Dewmi Seneviratna, and Davidson Zhao
This is a thorough analysis of the myth Demeter and Persephone. The points to be discussed are the theme, the conflicts, connections to modern day and the plot graph of the story.
Full transcript