Study Guide

Helen Hate

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In H.D.'s "Helen," the Greeks are pissed. Like, majorly P.O.-ed. Paris has absconded to Troy with Helen, and has started the Trojan War (a war that will go on for ten years). But instead of hating Paris, in the poem, all of Greece unites in their hatred of Helen. They shift all the blame to her, and seem to revel in this experience of tearing Helen down (metaphorically speaking). The poem is even organized by Greece's hate; each of the three stanzas begins with a clear expression of straight up vitriol. The intensity of this hate seems more than a little suspicious to us, and we can't help but wonder what else is going on underneath all of that hatred.

Questions About Hate

  1. Is Greece's hate well-placed? Or do you think that the Greeks should redirect their hate toward Paris? Or to something else entirely?
  2. Do we have any idea of how Helen feels about the hate in the poem? If so, where do you see her perspective?
  3. What's the relationship between hate and beauty in the poem? 
  4. What's the relationship between hate and love in the poem? Is there any room for love in the poem's version of the Trojan War?

Chew on This

The Greeks have totally misplaced their hate onto Helen; they should really be pissed at Paris for whisking her away.

Helen deserves all of the hate; there's a reason Marlowe wrote that she was "the face that launched a thousand ships."

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