Alien and the myth of Demeter and Persephone.

Essay by pely_erinUniversity, Master'sA, November 2004

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Ridley Scott's 1979 film "Alien" has been admired and discussed for years. The powerful yet fleeting image of the alien as well as its connection to the ship and crew is both fascinating and disturbing. While many critics have speculated as to the nature of "Alien" and its symbolism, few have commented on its role as related to the myth of Demeter and Persephone. This may be due to the ambiguity in the assignment of the roles. The 'roles' of Demeter, Persephone, and Hades are all quite vague, and even interchangeable in the film.

At first glance, the ship seems to fill the role of Demeter. Not only is it referred to as "Mother," but its sole purpose is to take the crew back home. The opening scene introduces the audience to the ship by giving them a full tour which finally ends in the sleeping chambers.

This serene, sterile environment is a sharp contrast to the rest of the ship. It feels very safe and nurturing. As the crew awakens, a flower like structure (which very closely resembles the alien's eggs) births the crew into their safe and comforting environment, giving the false illusion that they have now returned home. According to Ovid's Metamorphosis, Demeter's rescue of Persephone is also somewhat of an illusion since Persephone only gets to enjoy her 'rescue' for half the year.

However, after a closer look at the ship, its role as Demeter becomes problematic. The only places in the ship that are serene and tranquil are the living quarters, the "mother" or computer room, and the hospital. Every other part of the ship is quite dark and ominous. As the film progresses, the ship mimics the conditions of the planet as an incredibly hostile place. It now appears to...