The Bistro Styx by Rita Dove: Summary and Critical Analysis

Rita Dove in the poem The Bistro Styx uses Greek mythology of Demeter and Persephone in order to depict the troubled relationship between mother and daughter. To mix-up both myth and the context of the poem, the poem is about modern Demeter (the mother) who in her search discovers modern Persephone (the daughter) in the underworld of modern Paris abducted by the Hades of modern civilization.

Rita Dove (Born in 1952)

The poem begins with a narration of the mother who is waiting for her daughter. In her (mother) description of her daughter and in the conversation between mother and daughter we can sense the trouble in the relationship which often results in communication gap. The readers can observe artificiality in the daughter’s manner of clothing and an accent (language). Daughter was dressed in gray skirt which is symbolic of the death of human emotion and sensibility. Daughter becomes more formal than affectional. Felling emotional faculty of humanity has been replaced by the formality.

The daughter works as a model for an artist who runs a studio that features the futuristic paintings. The daughter tries to prove the significance of her life in the city taking the reference of the love of tourist and Parisians. This reference becomes ironical because of the transitoriness of love of tourist and Parisian.

The central theme of the poetry is the act of eating and drinking at the restaurant. The daughter likes drinking and eating than the conversation with the mother. The way she is centered on drinking and eating gives the reader a clue that modern Persephone is not going to be fully restored (saved). According to ancient Greek myth, it was eating of few seeds of pomegranate that was a reason behind Persephone failure to restore herself completely in the world of living beings. Eating the seeds of pomegranate, Persephone becomes half living and half dead.

Similarly, in the poem the different varieties of dishes, that the daughter orders can be compared to seeds of pomegranate. Therefore, this modern Persephone will forever be in the underworld with the Hades. Perhaps, because of this the mother realizes that she has lost the daughter forever at the end of the poem.

Another mythical allusion in the poem is of the river of forgetfulness; Styx. According to the myth, if the dead drinks water from Styx while crossing the boundary between the world of living being and the world of dead, it forgets everything about its previous life. The daughter’s drinking of wine resembles the dead drinking water from Styx. The daughter has forgotten her relation, life in the village, tradition and rural values.

The pain of mother is losing her child in the chaotic world even if she wants to bring back her to home (earlier state) but she can’t do so as it has become too late. She (her daughter) has completely ruined and has eaten seeds of pomegranate; means to say belongs to dead one and has drunk water from Styx that implies she has forgotten her mom and earlier life. On the other hand daughter’s view is that in the name of career, job, opportunity, modernity, fashion, she has to sacrifice her old attitude, old values, and tradition. She even wants to stay with mom, she can’t because she needs to compete in this modern world to sustain and keep her standards up-to-date. She is seduced by modern facilities and opportunities.

In the mythical background this poetry explores postmodern society. This type of reality is also known as Mythopoeic reality. Modern daughters are not being abducted by Hades but in the name of career, job, personality they are abducted themselves. The ancient Persephone was always urging to go back to her mother but this modern Persephone has willingly chosen to be the victim of the modern Hades.

Cite this Page!

Sharma, Kedar N. "The Bistro Styx by Rita Dove: Summary and Critical Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 17 Nov. 2013,

Related Topic

Rita Dove: Biography