Mother-Daughter Relationship in The Hymn To Demeter

182 views 5 pages ~ 1227 words
Get a Custom Essay Writer Just For You!

Experts in this subject field are ready to write an original essay following your instructions to the dot!

Hire a Writer

The Hymn to Demeter

The Hymn to Demeter explores the theme of transition from maidenhood to motherhood and displays the importance of mother-daughter relationship. It relates the story of the abduction of Persephone, and Demeter's grief and anger. As a daughter transitions into marriage, the mother-daughter relationship may require a redefinition concerning their perspective roles. My essay will explore the impact of a mother's loss due to her daughter's sudden detachment for matrimony and the transition from maidenhood to marriage in ancient Greece.

The Abduction of Persephone

The story opens with Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, picking pretty flowers in the meadows of the immortal world. Suddenly, Hades appeared and carried her away into the Underworld. Demeter started desperately seeking for her daughter but her efforts were futile. Finally, Demeter learned that Hades kidnapped Persephone and that her father, Zeus, had allowed it. She demanded of Hades to return her daughter but to no avail. Due to her anger with Zeus, Demeter withdrew from Olympus and retreated to a mortal household where she became the caretaker of a newborn baby, Demophoon. Demeter attempted to transform the child into an immortal being. At night, she put him in the hearth flames, while during the day anointed him with ambrosia but Metaneira caught Demeter in the act. She screamed seeing her child in the fire. At that point, Demeter revealed herself and retreated to her temple in Eleusis. Still consumed by grief for her daughter, she deprived the fertility of the earth, causing famine. As a result, mortals were not capable of offering sacrifices to the gods. It prompted Zeus to intervene and bring Persephone back to Demeter. Hades agreed to return Persephone but only after feeding her a pomegranate seed that condemned her to live a third part of the year with Hades, and the other two thirds with Demeter in the upper world. Thus, Demeter restored fertility to the earth and the whole land blossomed with flowers.

The Transition from Maidenhood

The myth represents the process of a woman's maturation and its impact on the mother-daughter relationship. In the first few sentences of the Hymn to Demeter, Persephone represents maidenhood. Beauty seems to be particularly important in this phase because she is described as "slender-ankled" (Homerus Line 2) and "glorious in form" (Homerus l 66). The visual description portrays a lovely atmosphere surrounded by flowers, which perhaps refer to a woman's virginity. Persephone is "plucking flowers in the lush meadows-roses, crocuses, and lovely violets, irises and hyacinth, and the narcissus, which the earth grew as a snare for the flower-faced maiden" (Homerus ll 6-7). There is no description of the women's abilities or attributes until after she is married (Homerus ll 365-369). This emphasis on beauty demonstrates that marriage was a singular goal of maidenhood in the ancient mindset. For beauty serves little purpose other than to be worshipped and admired, the concept is made apparent when Demeter asks for help from Metaneira's daughter. Instead of wishing them well-being, success, and long life, she wants them "men for husbands and children to bear" (Homerus l 136). From this statement, we can understand that Demeter is not necessarily against her daughter's marriage. Instead, she struggles with the detachment that marriage produces.

The Impact on the Mother-Daughter Relationship

Besides that, the text depicts the transition from maidenhood as a fulfillment. Only after Persephone is with her partner that she is considered 'wise,' and again only after she is with Hades is she granted authority (Homerus 370, 365-369). However, there appears to be a contradiction to the ideology underscored by Demeter's resistance to the marriage and loss of her child. On a closer examination, there appears to be a vital component which is the unique situation of the union as few people come back from the underworld. Prior to that, Hermes was the only god that seemed to appear from the house of Hades. Therefore, the descendants of Persephone to the underworld are comparable to her demise and it is acceptable for a mother to cry over the loss of her daughter.

The Importance of Mother-Daughter Relationship

In her youth, Persephone symbolizes the strong connection between a mother and a daughter, and the often-difficult transition from maidenhood to marriage. Although their bond was inextricable, Persephone's sudden transition from maidenhood to matrimony unquestionably questioned the structure and strength of their relationship.

Persephone's Transformation

Her initiatory adventure in the kingdom of the dead is such a powerful experience that it transforms her life forever. Once Persephone is taken there, she loses her previous identity plus her maidenhood, particularly through her eating of the pomegranate seeds. The fact that it is the seed that is mentioned and not the plant, it is of importance due to the fact that it could be symbolically compared to the images of germination and reproduction, life and birth. Persephone transforms from an ignorant and innocent child to a fearful goddess. She is not a girl with a protective mother anymore, instead, she becomes a woman who makes her own decisions. Hermes sees the first recognition of her complete transition into womanhood, on line 348 where she is mentioned by name.

The Warning and the Importance of the Mother-Daughter Relationship

The narrative also appears to be emphasizing on the importance of mother-daughter relationship. Demeter is not necessarily against the marriage of her daughter. It is evident when she admits that, as a mortal, "parents wish [for] a husband and a child for a daughter" (Homerus 137). Rather, she fights with separation that marriage brings about. Once the division is done away with, she reunites with Zeus and allows earth to bear fruits again (Homerus 467-472). It is evident that the separation was difficult as the ancients believed that each time Persephone departed, the earth was to experience winter. Nonetheless, the temporary separation never included a continuous state of mourning. It is tragic that one reason that strengthens the mother-daughter relationship is the same that contributes to their split causing pain. Children are born with little knowledge thus if a woman's purpose is marriage she should be taught that from an earlier age. The task falls on the mother hence a critical relationship.

Persephone's Transformation and Character Development

Persephone only makes minor appearances within the myths rather than playing a central role. However, these appearances show how her character changed throughout the story. The development of her character can also be viewed from a psychological point of view. The descent into the Underworld symbolically alludes to her journey in the deeper layers of the psyche. In fact, when she is alone for the first time, Persephone is forced to take care of herself; abandoned and sad. Persephone finally has the possibility of transforming herself and accepting to grow, mature and discover herself.

A Warning to Fathers and Suitors

It was necessary for Persephone to go through the abduction because this sudden shock, emotionally disturbing, with the male world, is essential to break the primary maternal bond to for a new woman to be reborn. Additionally, the narrative also serves as a warning to fathers and suitors not to disregard the association between a woman and her daughter. The mighty Zeus and Hades experienced disaster when they overlooked it thus male figures should not excessively apply their authority.

Work Cited

Homerus. The Homeric hymn to Demeter. Ed. Nicholas James Richardson. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974.

August 21, 2023


Number of pages


Number of words




Writer #



Expertise Mythology
Verified writer

Tony is a caring and amazing writer who will help you with anything related to English literature. As a foreign exchange student, I received the best kind of help. Thank you so much for being there for me!

Hire Writer

This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Eliminate the stress of Research and Writing!

Hire one of our experts to create a completely original paper even in 3 hours!

Hire a Pro