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Fatema Rahman Chiara Bozzone GE 30 A 12 December 2012 Hymn to Demeter The Hymn to Demeter follows the tale of the abduction of Persephone by Hades and the subsequent actions taken by Demeter. The myth explains the importance for a child to transition out of a mother-child bond into one that will allow for their further growth and maturity. By using Claude Lvi-Strausss paradigmatic structuralism analysis on the myth, the reader can isolate the different binaries and the mediations used to so solve the problems that arise with such opposing factors. While a mother-child bond was important, it proved detrimental if held onto for too long. Persephones marriage helped her breach the difficult divide of adolescence to adulthood. The needed transition into maturity for a woman depended entirely on a man, which was a reflection of Grecian culture and their male dominated patriarchy. Claude Lvi-Strauss used a paradigmatic structuralism approach to myths to explain their basic functions in the society they were told in. This method of analysis takes its roots from linguistics. Paradigmatic structuralism looks at opposing factors and their methods towards a solution in a myth. Lvi-Strauss argued that the way the elements of the myth combined explained the function of a myth. He said that myths provided a logical model capable of overcoming a contradiction (Lvi-Strauss 443). In his analysis of myths, he broke down the myths into smaller sentences that he grouped by similarities, like over valuation of kinship and undervaluation of kinship. These binaries, which opposed one another, helped him to understand the function of the myths. Some binaries are contradictories, which have no mediation while

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others are contraries, which have mediation. The different elements grouped reveal how the myth worked in society and culture. Life and death were predominately shown through fertility and drought. When Persephone resided above ground with only her mother, it can be assumed that the earth enjoyed year round fertility before the abduction. When she was taken by Hades, the god of the underworld, that signified a sort of death for her. With her stay with Hades in the underworld, the earth underwent a death of its own since it was barren. With her absence, Demeter brought a drought to the lands, effectively mirroring Persephones stay in the underworld. Before that, Demeter fasted: that was an example of drought as well because she was depriving her body of nourishment, much as she was did later to the lands. The mediation between the two was Persephones marriage. Her stay with Hades for third of the year was in essence winter and the rest of the time she spent above ground was the other seasons where Demeter allowed for fertility. The balance brought by the annual passage of the seasons allowed for both life and death, or winter and spring time, to be present so that there was both fertility and bareness. The over valuation of kinship and the undervaluation of kinship was shown through the actions of the women and men, respectively, in the hymn. Demeters attachment to her daughter caused a yearlong drought while Metaneiras attachment to her son Demophoon lost him his opportunity at immortality. Also, Demeter had refused all suitors for Persephones hand because of her love for her daughter. Zeus on the other hand, as Persephones father, undermined her relationship with her mother by going behind their backs to agree with Hades for him to take Persephone. Hades abduction of Persephone broke the mother-daughter relationship, again under-valuing their bond. It was the women in the hymn that held on to their children and the men that undervalued that relationship; although the presence of a male figure was devoid in

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Demophoons story. Demeters actions, born from desperation and desolation, reflected how much a mother cared for her child but her actions proved to be dangerous to mankind. She had deprived Persephone of marriage and motherhood, holding her back from becoming a woman and maturing. Metaneiras attachment to her son was detrimental to his chances of overcoming death. Although there was no mediation for Demophoon, Persephones marriage to Hades proved the mediation needed between the two binaries. It cemented a new bond, a husband-wife bond, and still allowed for Persephone to spend the majority of her time with Demeter. The power struggle between Demeter, a very powerful and independent Goddess, and Zeus, the Greek patriarch of the gods, indicated the extent of power women and men enjoyed in society. Zeus practically gave his daughters hand away to Hades and in retaliation Demeter not only removed herself from the company of the other gods, but caused a drought that could have wiped out all mankind. She was initially helpless to aid her daughter, but her drought effectively forced Zeuss hand into bringing Persephone back. Persephone, however, was helpless against a male opposition, mainly Hades, which more accurately portrayed a Greek womans station. Her survival and eventual growth depended on Hades; her claim to autonomy was through her marriage to Hades. Hades forced womanhood on her by giving her the pomegranate seeds, which through their red color signified the loss of virginity. His trickery and his knowledge beforehand that the consummation of the fruit would force her to stay was another show at how males had power over the females future and thus guided their futures, too. The hymn described Persephone to be his revered spouse (Hymn to Demeter line 343) and he sat with her on their bed as equals. Persephone was not callously treated and Hades offered to share his throne with her, which showed females were not to be treated unfairly in Greek society. Persephone had no

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identity as her mothers daughter, but as Hades wife she was the mistress of the underworld and would be worshiped in her own right. The abduction forced her into womanhood and growth. Persephones union with Hades forced Demeter to breach the rift she imposed between her and the gods. Although Persephone only returned to Demeter to parts of the year, she returned a revered wife of a powerful god. Rhea and Hermes acted as partial mediators between Demeter and Zeus. Hermes was only a messenger that conveyed Zeuss message. Rhea succeeded in bringing back her daughter Demeter, underlining the importance of a motherdaughter bond. It is Persephones return that brings a balance between her mother and father. Lightness and darkness also play a major part in the hymn; they serve to contrast Demeter and Hades. Demeter carried a torch for Persephone when she first went missing, as would a person when searching for someone lost. It was to illuminate the darkness in order to better see; it drove away the darkness. Hades, as lord of the underworld, lived in a world of darkness. The fire also represented life. When Demeter wanted to make Demophoon immortal, she put him into fire so that he could be immortal. In essence, he was being reborn into an immortal until Demeter was interrupted. The fire warded off his eventual death, or would have had Demeter been uninterrupted. In contrast, Hades ruled over Erebos, a place of death and darkness. Persephone had to divide her time to both worlds and was the mediation for the two different places. In Hades world, she was a wife and mistress of his realm; with Demeter, she was her cherished daughter. The field Persephone was picking flowers in was colorful and full of life. Demeter took Persephone with her to fragrant Olympus (Hymn to Demeter line 331) after she got her daughter back. Eleusis was not only abundant with life and people, but it was also where Demeter found a child to mother. For the most part, Persephone was shielded from unwanted suitors while with her mother and she was in the company of Gods at Olympus,

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indicating she was secure at those times. In Erebos, Persephone was reluctant and missed her mother (Hymn to Demeter line 344) until she fully submitted to becoming Hades wife. She was apprehensive of Hades until he let her go back home and offered her his kingdom in marriage. Persephones time with them both show how a mother-daughter bond was very important and rich in life and security; but the same could be said of a husband-wife relationship. The binaries on one side all relate to one another, as do the opposing groups. The side of life, overvaluation, and lightness concern a mothers relationship with her child and other side relates to the factors that try to pull that child away from the mother. Fertility and life coincided with the time and places Persephone spent with her mother while bareness and death connected to the time she spent with Hades. In Grecian culture, when a maiden died, she became married to death. Persephones plight mirrored that instance: her mother did not allow any suitors to woo her and so when she was taken by the god of the underworld, she died and became his bride. However, her growth was solely attributed to Hades, who gave her an identity beyond the daughter of a powerful goddess and allowed for her to mature into a woman. Demophoons tale served as a cautionary tale, because unlike Persephone, he was unable to achieve autonomy. The myth of Persephone puts great importance on the relationship between a mother and her child but also stresses the importance for a child to mature into their own autonomy. Holding on to a mother-child bond was damaging to a childs growth. That growth, for a woman at least, was largely male dominated, so a womans place was under the guidance of male, namely a husband. By using the paradigmatic structuralism analysis, the binaries of agriculture and drought, kinship, female and male dynamic, and fire and darkness were analyzed and connected. The connections between the groups indicated how Greek society was structured around male patriarchy and the importance it placed on familial relationships.

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Works Cited The Homeric Hymns. Athanassakis, Apostolos N. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976. Print. Lvi-Strauss, Claude. The Structural Study of Myth. The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 68, No. 270, (1955): 428-444. Print Peradotto, John. Oedipus and Erichthonius: Some observations on Paradigmatic and Syntagmatic Order, Arethusa 10:1, (1977). Print

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