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Two Sisters of Persephone

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1 Two Sisters of Persephone
Sylvia Plath

2 Who or what is Persephone?
Persephone is the goddess of the underworld in Greek mythology. She is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, goddess of the harvest. Persephone was such a beautiful young woman that everyone loved her, even Hades wanted her for himself. One day, when she was collecting flowers on the plain of Enna, the earth suddenly opened and Hades rose up from the gap and abducted her. None but Zeus, and the all-seeing sun, Helios, had noticed it.

3 Who or what is Persephone?
Broken-hearted, Demeter wandered the earth, looking for her daughter until Helios revealed what had happened. Demeter was so angry that she withdrew herself in loneliness, and the earth ceased to be fertile. Knowing this could not continue much longer, Zeus sent Hermes down to Hades to make him release Persephone. Hades grudgingly agreed, but before she went back he gave Persephone a pomegranate (or the seeds of a pomegranate, according to some sources).

4 Who or what is Persephone?
When she later ate of it, it bound her to underworld forever and she had to stay there one-third of the year. The other months she stayed with her mother. When Persephone was in Hades, Demeter refused to let anything grow and winter began. This myth is a symbol of the budding and dying of nature. The Romans called her Proserpine.

5 Overall poem understanding…
This poem has a literal side and mythical side to it meaning. The literal side would just be that it is about two sisters with different aspects. The mythical side could be referring to the two sides of Persephone to show the connections between "shade and light".

6 Some Key terminology "worm-husbanded" is referring to how she will die a virgin, her only companionship being the worms that will eat her corpse. Plath is denouncing the structure of a mechanical life as compared to the whimsy of a free life. “rat-shrewd” is referring to the physical description of one who is being astute and crafty, but characteristically negative and potentially malicious.

7 Some Key terminology “graveward” is an adverb referencing moving towards death/a grave. Think Dylan Thomas: "Altarwise by owl-light in the half-way house The gentleman lay graveward with his furies; Abaddon in the hangnail cracked from Adam, And, from his fork, a dog among the fairies, The atlas-eater with a jaw for news, Bit out the mandrake with to-morrow's scream."

8 Stanza by Stanza… In the first stanza, it introduces the two sisters, different as dark and light. One sister is very happy while the other is awfully depressed.

9 Stanza by Stanza… In the second, third, and last stanza, it talks about the aspects of the sister of the shade side. This sister is a logical, mathematical, and thinker sort of person. She spends her time dark shadowy room on her mechanical machine. As she is working on the mechanical machine, she is marking her time.

10 Stanza by Stanza… I interpreted the lines "At this barren enterprise Rat-shrewd go to her squint eyes, Root-pale her meager frame." as the writer saying that as she is doing her boring job she never goes outside into the world, she become white-skinned. She also becomes skinny because the lack of food that she gets inside her room. This sister goes to her grave having bitter life and as a virgin as said in line 26 and 27. "Worm-husbanded, yet no woman", to me means that she was having some "problem" with her sex life.

11 Stanza by Stanza… In the fourth, fifth, and sixth stanza, it talks about the aspect of the sister of the light side. In this few stanzas, the speaker is pictured in a very happier place. This other sister is a vibrant, nature-connected woman whose surroundings clearly show that she has a happy life. "Bronzed as earth, the second lies, Hearing ticks blown gold Like pollen on bright air." to me I interpreted as the writer saying that she is always out with nature that she... (you finish with your thoughts)

12 Commentary form: Plath gives the subject of her divided female selves and opposing aspirations treatment in her 1956 poem "Two Sisters of Persephone"  The piece paints a portrait of two sisters, different as dark and light. The first is a logical, mathematical, intellectual, indoorsy sort whose "rat-shrewd squint eyes" and "root-pale meager frame" serve to make her seem hardly a woman at all, not in the feminine sense of womanhood.

13 Commentary form: The second sister is a vibrant, nature-connected woman whose setting clearly makes her a symbol of fertile womanhood: she lounges luxuriantly in the yard, "bronzed as earth", taking in the vivid "red silk flare of petaled blood" of a nearby "bed of poppies". The first of Plath's sisters goes to her grave a virgin, "with flesh laid waste, / Worm-husbanded, yet no woman", while the second becomes the "sun's bride" and "grows quick with seed".

14 Commentary form: To a reader familiar with a bit of the author's background, the poem is quite obviously a self-portrait, wherein Plath sees in herself the potential for a dry, spinsterish life of intellect and little else, alongside the conflicting looming vision of herself as a vital and sparkling woman made complete in motherhood, nature's most lavish gift.

15 Questions… 1. What is the significance of the title? 2. What can you note about the structure (# of stanzas, line breaks, punctuation, etc.) about the poem? 3. What is interesting about the language the poet uses in the poem? What references to the natural world, colors, feminine imagery, sexual imagery, etc. can you identify? What is the poet’s purpose in using these elements? Are there any predominant motifs of diction present? Is there some pattern/logic/structure to the presentation of images/motifs (progression or placement)?

16 Questions… 4. Is there anything interesting about syntax (sentence structure and/or grammatical arrangement of words, phrases, etc.) in the poem? 5. What tone or mood has the poet created? How? 6. What sorts of duality does the author address in the poem? 7. What might the poet be saying about feminine identity in this poem?

17 Poetic rhythm How do I recognize Iambic Pentameter?
For monosyllabic words, it's relatively simple: Nouns and action verbs (Poems, cat/test, work) are usually stressed. Anything that isn't necessarily important to the sentence (Think: is, was, and, but, on, by, etc.) is usually unstressed. A trick to finding the stress in polysyllabic words is to say it aloud in a tone of surprise/disbelief. You'll automatically stress the proper syllables, anything else feels awkward. Think: "FORCEfully?" "REALly?", etc.

18 Your homework: In your composition Notebooks:
Create a thesis for your observations Write out an outline for the findings – brief, not detailed! 

19 Works Referenced WriteWork contributors. "Poem Analysis: Two sisters of persephone", 14 December, Web. 21 Sep

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