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The Pomegranate Case

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In the poem "The Pomegranate" by Eavan Boland, the poet puts herself in the role of the mythological characters that are allegorical to her life. In the myth of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, and her daughter Persephone, Pluto, the god of the underworld, abducts Persephone. After much heartbreak and searching, Ceres is reunited with her daughter but only for half the year, while during the other half she is to live in the underworld. This is because Persephone eats seven pomegranate seeds while living with Pluto. During the season that Persephone is with Pluto, Ceres despairs and neglects her crops, which creates winter. When she is reunited with her child, the land is fertile and this marks the summer season. In the poem, Boland is with her daughter in the summer and she is predicting the arrival of winter and in turn the disappearance of her daughter. However, she characterizes herself as Persephone when she was a child and Ceres when she became a mother. The pomegranate is the most important symbol in the myth as well as the poet's story of her own daughter. In the poem, the pomegranate symbolizes a child's intent to eventually leave her family and live on her own, separating herself from her mother.

In the beginning of the poem, Boland is a child reading the myth of Ceres and Persephone for the first time. Eavan Boland was born in Ireland but moved to London at

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an early age, and refers to herself as "a child in exile in/ A city of fogs and strange consonants". (line 9) This must be referring to her time in London, and she is in exile because many people did not accept her at her school. As she was exiled in her life, she identified with "An exiled child" in the myth, who would be Persephone. (11)

She uses the word "exile" twice to further show that she is not only similar to the character Persephone she embodies the character.

Next in the poem, Boland has grown up, married, moved to the suburbs, and has a daughter. It is summer, just as Ceres would be with her daughter in the summer. She begins to characterize herself as Ceres with the line "When she came running I was ready/ To make any bargain to keep her." (15) The bargain she is referring to is Ceres bargain with Pluto to only have Persephone for half of the year. She then identifies herself as Ceres, and she knows that winter will come eventually, when she will inevitably lose her daughter to the underworld. "Winter was in store for every leaf/ On every tree on that road." (21) In real life, the underworld is a symbol for the world in which her daughter will enter when she leaves. Any child who has left home feels at some point the feeling of being in a world separate from their home life.

As her child gets older and is moving closer to the age where she will be independent, Boland can sense that winter is getting closer and even says "And for me. It is winter/ And the stars are hidden." (23-25) Her child is a teenager, sleeping next to her teen magazines that connect her with the outside world. At this point in the poem, when Boland is watching her sleeping, aging daughter, she remembers the pomegranate from her childhood. "The pomegranate! How did I forget it?" (29) She is mentioning the

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pomegranate because it is the turning point in the myth; Ceres loses part of her daughter because of a pomegranate. She asks how she could forget it because she has grown older and perhaps forgotten part of her childhood, as many adults do. Here she begins to speak from the perspective of Ceres instead of herself. She thinks that if Persephone had not reached out for the fruit then she could be with her mother. She thinks that she could warn her young daughter not to take the pomegranate. This means she could try to warn



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