Study Guide

Io Themes

  • Jealousy

    Hera's jealousy causes a whole heap of trouble for Io. Not only does Hera turn the friendly nymph into a prisoner, she later sends a gadfly (or the Furies, depending on the version) to sting Io wherever where she roams. Oh yeah, and it was Zeus's fear of his wife's jealous wrath that made him change Io into a heifer in the first place.

    Hera may seem a little psycho to some people, but remember—it's not like she's paranoid or something. Zeus cheats on her constantly, and everybody knows it. There's no doubt that the queen of the gods has a pretty good reason to be jealous. Maybe Zeus and Hera should just go duke it out on Maury and save everybody else some grief.

    Questions About Jealousy

    1. Why do you think Hera focuses all her jealous revenge on Io and not on Zeus?
    2. Are there any innocent victims of Hera's jealous anger in the story?
    3. What are some examples of Hera's jealousy from other myths? Check out our Shmoop files for some clues.
    4. What makes Hera finally give up her jealous revenge on Io?
    5. Was jealousy a different beast in the wayback Greece days than it is today?
  • Suffering

    Poor Io. It's hard not to feel more than a little bad for her. This little nymph does a whole bunch of suffering before it's all over. As fun as being transformed into a cow might be (to us, but we're weird), it would definitely stink if you had to stay that way for a long time. Add to that a few more gems—being ripped from your home, being made a prisoner, being forced to wonder the earth while being tortured, and possibly being raped—and you've got the makings of a seriously unpleasant life.

    Questions About Suffering

    1. In your opinion, what is the worst thing that Io suffers throughout her tale?
    2. Some say that suffering makes people stronger. Do you think that's true in Io's case? Why or why not?
    3. Does Io deserve her suffering in any way?
    4. What other characters in the story suffer besides Io? In what ways do they suffer?
    5. What, if anything, does Io learn from her suffering?
    6. Do Zeus or Hera learn from the suffering they inflict?
  • Exile

    Io is forced to leave her home of Argos to wander all over the Earth—that's definitely some exile. Eventually, she ends up far away from Greece on the banks of the Nile in exotic Egypt, never to return to her home. Yup, that's pretty much the definition of being exiled.

    But wait. Might Io be exiled in another way? Not only is she separated geographically, she's also exiled from her own species. When she's turned into a white cow by Zeus, Io is exiled from her own naiad body. Unlike her geographic exile, though, Io actually gets to return to her naiad form in the end. Finally a win for this poor girl.

    Questions About Exile

    1. Which do you think is a worse kind of exile: Io being driven from her home or from her species?
    2. Does Io deserve to be exiled? Why or why not?
    3. Are there any other characters in the story who are exiled in some way?
    4. In what ways does Io's exile affect her character?
    5. Check out the myth of Oedipus, and compare and contrast the theme of exile in that story with the theme in the story of Io.