The Persephone Myth in O’Brien’s Wild Decembers

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In O’Brien’s novel, Wild Decembers, a young and innocent Breege fell in love with an engaged farmer named Bugler who moved from Australia so he could establish a farm on family-owned land in Ireland. While trying to keep their relationship a secret, Bugler takes Breege to a secluded island where they engaged in a sexual act that resulted in Breege’s pregnancy. Breege and Bugler’s night on the island, her pregnancy and Bugler’s untimely death parallels the myth of Persephone and her decent into the Underworld as Hades’ queen.

In Greek Mythology, the young Persephone, daughter of Demeter, was chosen by Zeus to be a companion to Hades in the Underworld. Hades kidnapped Persephone when she was picking flowers, specifically the narcissus, and brought her to the Underworld. Demeter, the goddess of grain searched all over the world to find her beloved daughter. While she was searching for Persephone, she neglected the crops and the winter harvest was ruined. In the Underworld, Persephone was crowned the Queen of the Underworld but she still longed to see her mother. Hades agreed that he would let her return to Earth if she did not eat anything while in the Underworld. Knowing that he wanted to keep her for his Queen, Hades deliberately gave her a pomegranate from which Persephone later admitted to have eaten a few seeds. Hades agreed to let her live on Earth, but she had to visit him four months out of the year because she ate the pomegranate seeds. Demeter was reunited with Persephone and the crops again flourished (Bryant 55).

Much like Persephone, the character of Breege is a young woman who seems to never have had a boyfriend. Since Breege does not have a partner, one can infer that she is still a virgin and has not entered into...

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...wn farm land sits stagnant, without anyone to properly care for it.

When Bugler and Breege visit the cemetery island on a secret date, their story parallels the myth of Persephone. O’Brien knew the myth well since she wove details of the Underworld like Cerberus into her story. Breege perfectly portrays Persephone when a childlike Breege spent the night on the island and emerged as a woman after a sexual meeting with Bugler. Breege took the “pomegranate seeds” from Bugler as his sperm when he impregnated her. Bugler, or Hades, ensured Breege would come back to visit him through her thoughts, now that she is pregnant with his child.

Works Cited

Bryant, Megan. Oh My Gods!: A look-it-up guide to the gods of mythology. New York, New York: Scholastic, 2010. 54-59. Print.

O'Brien, Edna. Wild Decembers. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001. Print.

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