Study Guide

Persephone, Falling Themes

  • Isolation

    We know from the title of "Persephone, Falling" that Persephone falls (wow, what a shocker), but what leads to her fall is the fact that she has become isolated from her community. She wanted to be different from everyone else, have the prettiest, most unique flower all to herself, and as a result, she was too far away to be saved (or even heard) by anyone.

    Questions About Isolation

    1. Do people isolate themselves or are they isolated by outside forces (nature, others)? How responsible is Persephone for her isolation? 
    2. What drives us to want to be distinct and isolated? What do you think leads Persephone to isolate herself?
    3. Do you think Persephone's desire to be isolated from others has anything to do with her age? Are there any clues that she is being naïve?
    4. How much of the mother's advice do you agree with? Is it worth it to conform and go with the crowd if it means staying safe?

    Chew on This

    Persephone deliberately isolates herself from her community because she watched too much Barney and has a childish desire to be special.

    The speaker of the poem is right: Persephone should have been willing to give up her desire to be different for the sake of playing it safe.

  • Lust

    Lust only makes a cameo in "Persephone, Falling," but it's really the background for a lot of the psychology of the poem. We're talking about a girl coming of age, here. There are bound to be some desires at play. Hades is mostly painted as a lusty monster, but there are a few hints that Persephone is perhaps feeling a wee bit frisky, too.

    Questions About Lust

    1. What is the difference between love and lust in this poem and in general?
    2. Check out the mother's advice. Are parents ever able to help their children deal with these new temptations? How?
    3. Who would you say is guiltier of lust in the poem: Hades or Persephone? How would you defend that answer?
    4. What language in the poem tells us that we are dealing with lust and not love?

    Chew on This

    Hades is scary sexy—he represents the intimidating appeal of lust to the young Persephone.

    If we read the last two lines literally, it's just a rehash of a tired old wives' tale: that fleshly desires or lust will ultimately lead to doom.

  • Women and Femininity

    We could have just as easily said family, but "Persephone, Falling" is really all about mothers and daughters. Dove is trying to reconcile all the thoughts and desires she had when she was a child with all the fears and anxieties she has now that she is a mom. In the poem, Persephone is a daughter longing to be free of her mother's overprotection, while her mother longs to keep her safe, innocent and childlike.

    Questions About Women and Femininity

    1. What exactly is central conflict between the Persephone and her mother? Are they actually at odds?
    2. Do you think the mother really only wants the best for her daughter, or is she being a little selfish also?
    3. How is this relationship different from a father and son?
    4. Check out the last two lines. Whom do you hold responsible for what happened to Persephone?

    Chew on This

    Persephone's desire to distinguish herself from her mother chases her right into the arms of a dangerous man.

    Demeter's real struggle in this poem is not how to keep her daughter safe, but how to let her go.

  • Time

    Time moves quickly and slowly. Anyone who's ever taken a calculus class knows that. In "Persephone, Falling," we see how Persephone is overly anxious to grow up, while the mother wishes she could make time stand still. The title also reminds us that everything is happening in the present—right now. At the same time, the poem reminds us that everything we do is influenced by what happened in our past.

    Questions About Time

    1. How do you think Persephone's past experience with her mother affects her present problem?
    2. Do bad things happen all of a sudden or do they develop over time? What about in Persephone's case?
    3. Do you think the mother may have had similar experiences in her past? Is that why she's giving the daughter advice for the future?

    Chew on This

    The mother is stuck in the past, wanting to stop her daughter from experiencing the passage of time and the danger and heartache that accompanies it.

    The mother's advice is actually dangerous advice for the future. Girls should be bold—not meek.