Prompt I want – Grief marks the human condition in ways that immortals rarely ex
Prompt I want – Grief marks the human condition in ways that immortals rarely experience. However, Thetis and Demeter both lose children and end up in an unusual relationship with mortals.
First, discuss the similarities in their situations that you find central.
Some possibilities: What has caused the loss (or anticipated loss) of the child? How does each goddess react? How does her grief affect her relations with gods and mortals? What movements through the cosmos does her predicament cause her to make? Into what kind of exchange relationships does she enter? In terms of status (mortal vs. immortal; male vs. female), how do Achilles and Persephone present comparable vulnerabilities? (Do not try to answer all of these questions or necessarily restrict yourself to them; they’re just to get you started.)
Second, how do their situations and ability to affect change differ in ways that
Possibilities: What are the powers of the mother and how can she benefit her child? What is the difference between
having the grieving mother as the protagonist and having her as the protagonist’s mother? How much does the will of the child figure? Who gives the child gifts?
Aim for coherence and feel free to be selective among the above possibilities or others that occur to you. I do not expect you to touch all bases, but rather to make the best possible use of these four or so pages. The point is to focus on an area of contrast within these similar figures that highlights some aspect of the differing outlooks of the two poems.
Make sure that you actually compare the two texts. Do not discuss theme X in text 1 and then theme X in text 2 and then close. You need either a third movement to compare what you have found in 1 and 2; or, better, talk about theme X in text 1 and then X in texts 2 and 1; or, best, go back and forth between the two texts, issue by issue (not always possible if theme X in text 1 is so complicated that it needs a separate discussion). The accompanying sample essay (on Moodle) compares Demeter and Achilles throughout.
Be sparing with abstractions. Since you are writing in unfamiliar territory, I am encouraging you to work from the manageably specific to the somewhat general. Some glamorous terms in this vicinity are terminally slippery: “fate,” “humanity,” “tragedy.” “Fate” sounds grand and stirring, but in Homer it mostly amounts to “lifespan.” Remember that the “mortal”/ “immortal” distinction is much firmer than “divine” / “human” (i.e., human beings can temporarily take on divine [“godlike”] attributes without alleviating their mortality even slightly).
Style. Refer to plot elements in the present tense (“Achilles withdraws…”), since you’ll want to refer to the text in the present (“The Iliad concerns….”), and it’s dauntingly difficult to mix in the past tense consistently (“As the plot complicates itself, Achilles withdrew….”).