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Persephone, Falling

Persephone, Falling

by Rita Dove

Mother-Daughter Relationship

Symbol Analysis

Persephone, who's at the heart of this poem, is a daughter. Her mom Demeter is never mentioned, but her presence looms large. In fact, she serves as a stand-in for all overprotective mothers everywhere, who fear their daughters' independent streaks.

  • Line 1: "Ordinary beautiful" is a juxtaposition that evokes Persephone's complex teenage emotions. 
  • Lines 1-2: The repetition of "one" really hammers home the daughter's desire to get that one, perfect unique flower. That's what has led her so far from home—to where she's vulnerable to creepy denizens of the underworld. 
  • Lines 2-3: The repetition of pull emphasizes that desire yet again. She's both rebellious and determined. She wants that flower. No matter how much mama warned her not to travel too far. 
  • Line 5: Here it is, another juxtaposition. This one also hints at Persephone's emotional complexity—or is it confusion? She may be terrified of Hades's sudden appearance. But could she also be a bit thrilled?
  • Lines 7-8: That's one isolated girl, right? No one heard her? Creepy! If only mama were around to save her. Alas.
  • Line 8: When we find out that Persephone "had strayed from the herd," we get the sense that someone out there definitely didn't want this girl going against the grain.
  • Line 9: Sure enough, in Line 9, we find out that that person is her (or a) mother, who's got some words of advice. And take note of how the syntax changes here. Suddenly we get these short, imperative sentences that indicate a shift to the authoritative, motherly voice (of Demeter? Of all mothers?).
  • Lines 9-12: These words of motherly advice are too little too late to save Persephone. And it's possible they were always doomed to fail. After all, since when do teenage daughters listen to their dear old moms?
  • Line 14: The parallel structure (and repetition of "this") is also strong in the final two lines of the poem as Dove presses the reader to really focus on exactly how this event occurred. This is how the mom and daughter are separated. Forever.
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