Demeter and Persephone: What Our Children Are Learning.Report as inadecuate

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An examination of the Ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone shows how much can be learned about the culture in which it was produced and circulated. The reader can make a number of inferences about the relative positions and roles of men and women in ancient Greek society and what traits were considered positive in each. Six modern versions of the myth written for children offer the same opportunities to the critic. Unfortunately, the inferences to be made are disturbing. All of these modern versions give Zeus more credit for caring about the human race and for solving the problem at hand than he receives in the Homeric hymn. Furthermore, all the children's versions portray Demeter and Persephone as basically one dimensional characters, whereas the Homeric version portrays them as multi-dimensional. According to the modern versions, women are intelligent and mean or are kind but incapable of thinking for themselves. These versions teach children that women are to be subservient. They imply that while being a mother is an important role for women, it is not a role that requires strength. Women who show anger, they suggest, do themselves a disservice. Whereas the Homeric hymn showed the goddesses as well-rounded--having good qualities and bad qualities, children's versions of the myth severely limit the goddesses. Greek society devalued women in general, but 20th centure retellings for children devalue women even more than the original. (TB)

Descriptors: Childrens Literature, Elementary Education, Females, Feminism, Greek Civilization, Greek Literature, Literary Criticism, Modernization, Mythology, Sex Role

Author: Kerr, Karina L.


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