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Practice Essay: Persephone & Demeter

There was once a healthy, attractive young girl named Persephone, otherwise known as Penelope. She lived with her mother, Demeter, in warm Sicily. Demeter was the powerful goddess of all growing things, especially the plants people use for food.

One day, Persephone went out into the fields with some of her friends to pick flowers. Suddenly the earth shook and a large opening appeared in the ground. A chariot drawn by two jet-black stallions, driven by a man with fearsome features emerged. The frightening figure leaped toward Persephone, grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her into the chariot.

Persephone called for help and struggled to free herself, but she could not. Within seconds, he had borne her away through the abyss into the earth. He was Pluto (in the Greek, Hades), king of the Underworld. He had heard of Persephone's great beauty and had come to take her for his bride.

Demeter heard her daughter's cries all too late and rushed to save her. For days and months, she wandered over the earth searching for Persephone. Finally, the Sun told her that Persephone had been taken to the world of the dead, beneath the earth.

Demeter, in despair, neglected her duties and soon the green, fertile land became brown, frozen and lifeless. She vowed that the earth would not ever have green plants, trees, and grain until her daughter was returned to her.

Finally, Jupiter (Zeus, in the original Greek), king of all the gods, and Pluto's brother, decided something had to be done. He sent Mercury, the messenger god, to Pluto with the command to release Persephone.

Meanwhile, Persephone, while captured, refused to eat or drink, for she had learned that if she did, she would never be free from Pluto. But when Mercury appeared, she was so glad that she forgot and ate six seeds of a large pomegranate.

At last, the mother and daughter were re-united. How happy they were! But because Persephone had broken her fast, she was doomed to return to the underworld every six months of the year, one month for each seed she had rashly eaten. When this occurred, Demeter always mourned for her daughter and neglected her duties. The earth became cold and brown and without growing plants until Persephone returned to her mother. And that, some ancient peoples once believed, is why we have several cold months and several warm months each year.

1. The ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone has the following purpose: 2. The author uses which of the following techniques 3. We can assume from the myth that 4. Write why English and American readers sometimes refer to the Greek goddess Demeter as Ceres.

ELISSA SOMMERFIELD is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate from the University of Texas at Austin with an MA in English from SMU. She taught English at SMU and in the Dallas County Community College District. For under 30 years, she has conducted classes in SAT and ACT preparation as well as in graduate school exam instruction and study skills. Additionally, she has tutored extensively in most academic areas, the ISEE, the composition of school entrance essays, and editing books. She has served as an SAT and educational consultant for 29 Texas school districts and has authored four books on SATs plus, with Frances Bailey Wood, co-authored and revised one on how to study efficiently. An educational consultant, as well as graduate school, college, and boarding school counselor, she is a member of Independent Educational Consultants Association and Texas Association for College Admissions Counselors. Sommerfield actively maintains her Certified Educational Planner designation and at UT was a Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year.