Rachel Cameron and the myth of Demeter and Persephone


Term Paper, 2007

11 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Excerpt

Contents

1 Introduction

2 Rachel and the myth of Demeter and Persephone
2.1 General aspects
2.2 The role of Persephone
2.3 Close relation between life, death and fertility
2.4 The role of Demeter

3 Conclusion

4 Bibliography
4.1 Primary literature
4.2 Secondary literature

1 Introduction

This research paper endeavours to investigate the relation between Rachel Cameron, protagonist of Margaret Laurence’s A Jest of God, and the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Therefore, academic works are consulted as well as examples and citations from Margaret Laurence’s A Jest of God are picked out, in order to confirm or emphasize certain aspects and ideas. First of all, some general facts of a mother-daughter relationship are given, in order to establish a relationship to the principal topic of this research paper, from Jungian theory to Eleusinian mysteries. To relate the myth of Demeter and Persephone to Rachel Cameron in an as detailed manner as possible to Rachel Cameron, there will, firstly, be an analysis of Persephone’s role in A Jest of God, by means of drawing parallels between Persephone and Rachel. Next, the close relation between life, death and fertility is to be investigated, in order to establish another relationship between myth and novel, and, further, it shall be investigated, in how far Demeter is represented in the protagonist Rachel and not only in her mother May. The last point will be the conclusion which summarises the most important findings of this paper and tries to answer the question in how far the myth of Demeter and Persephone is represented in Margaret Laurence’s protagonist Rachel Cameron.

2 Rachel and the myth of Demeter and Persephone

2.1 General aspects

In her novel A Jest of God, Margaret Laurence obviously establishes a connection to the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. In opposition to the eternal dyad between mother and son, which, according to Adrienne Rich, is always the representation in divinity, sociology, art and psychoanalytic theory[1], Laurence, in her novel A Jest of God, narrates the story of the close bonding between Rachel Cameron and her mother May. According to Nancy Bailey, Laurence can be regarded as a Jungian writer:

The parallels between the phases of Jung’s theory and of Laurence’s fiction reveal the novelist as spiritually akin to the psychologist; her work has the scope and articulation of a complete cultural myth which lends itself appropriately to Jungian analysis.[2]

The fact that Laurence creates a protagonist, in this case Rachel, who embodies some aspects of Jung’s idea of individuality[3], necessitates a closer look at Jung’s theories[4]. Referring to the mother-daughter relationship, Jungians analyse archetypes and the Eleusinian mysteries[5], which directly lead to the main topic of this work: Greek mythology in Laurence’s A Jest of God.

2.2 The role of Persephone

Thirty-four-year-old Rachel Cameron, works as a schoolteacher in the fictitious town of Manawaka. As the daughter of an undertaker, she lives with her mother May above the former “Cameron’s Funeral Parlour[6], which after her father’s death still is a funeral parlour. Without living a satisfying life with social contacts and intimate relationships, the dark atmosphere in which Rachel lives, not least because of all the dead surrounding her, may be seen as a parallel to the netherworld in Greek mythology. Kore, daughter of Demeter, the goddess of grain and fertility, was abducted by Hades, god of the underworld, who then married Kore by force. She became goddess of the dead and was now called Persephone. There are several scenes in which Rachel’s actions are closely related to the myth of Persephone; for example, when Rachel commemorates one spring when she was plucking crocuses in a field wherefrom she could see the cemetery[7]. Persephone was likewise plucking flowers when suddenly the Earth split and she was kidnapped by Hades and brought to the realm of the dead.[8] Another clear reference to the myth of Demeter and Persephone is the scene when Rachel, right after having fantasized repeatedly about the shadow prince and having masturbated, dreams of her father, king of the underworld:

[...]


[1] Adrienne Rich, Von Frauen geboren: Mutterschaft als Erfahrung und Institution, Trans. Gesine Strempel and Meo H.-Rentzel, München: Verlag Frauenoffensive 1978, 218.

[2] Nancy Bailey, “Margaret Laurence, Carl Jung and the Manawaka women”, Studies in Canadian Literature 2.2 (1977). 24 July 2007 http://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/SCL/bin/get.cgi?directory=vol2_2/&filename=bailey.htm, 1.

[3] Ibid, 1.

[4] Unlike Freud, Carl Gustav Jung highlights the beneficial role of religion and weakens the role of sexuality in human psychic life. Some of the main theories of analytical psychology are those of archetypal images, complex, individuation, shadow, and the Self. For more information, see Demaris S. Wehr, “Jung, Carl Gustav”, in: Elizabeth Wright, Feminism and Psychoanalysis: A critical dictionary, Oxford: Blackwell 1992, 188.

[5] Margaret Whitford, “Mother-daughter relationship“, in: Elizabeth Wright, Feminism and Psychoanalysis: A critical dictionary, Oxford: Blackwell 1992, 263.

[6] Margaret Laurence, A Jest of God, Toronto: New Canadian Library 1988, 19.

[7] Ibid, 85.

[8] Christina Paolicchi, “Demeter and Persephone“, Images of Women in the Ancient World: Issues of Interpretation and Identity (1998). 29 August 2007 http://www.arthistory.sbc.edu/imageswomen/papers/paolicchidemeter/demeter.html, 3.

Excerpt out of 11 pages

Details

Title
Rachel Cameron and the myth of Demeter and Persephone
College
University of Münster  (Englisches Seminar)
Course
Canadian women’s writing: Margaret Laurence’s Manawaka cycle
Grade
2,0
Author
Year
2007
Pages
11
Catalog Number
V87993
ISBN (eBook)
9783638034074
ISBN (Book)
9783638931472
File size
390 KB
Language
English
Notes
Die Abgabeversion die die Note 2,0 erhielt wurde überarbeitet und verbessert.
Tags
Rachel, Cameron, Demeter, Persephone, Canadian, Margaret, Laurence’s, Manawaka
Quote paper
Anna-Carina Müller (Author), 2007, Rachel Cameron and the myth of Demeter and Persephone, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/87993

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