Jennifer Phenix wanted to share an exceptional student essay. Written by Danielle Chouinard, this essay exemplifies the talent and scholarship that we are privileged to see at Sheridan.
Written Analysis: Exploring the Quest/Journey Model
By: Danielle Chouinard
“In the course of recorded Greek history, various individuals were ‘heroized’ after death”, (Buxton, p. 102). These heroes and heroines of classical Greek mythology were often youthful and embodied both brains and brawn. They followed a journey which included a goal, impossible tasks, divine helpers and/or a helper maiden, and a reward. Just as Perseus was a hero in Greek mythology, my grandmother, Christiana, was a heroine in life, a role she completed when she passed away in 2009.
My Grandmother experienced a heroic physical, emotional, and spiritual journey much like that of Perseus. She went through so much in her life, yet was still able to find light in darkness, and had the ability to put a smile on everyone’s face. She was the one who inspired me to be the person I am today. It is said that, “Like many a hero in other traditions – Romulus and Remus to Moses and Jesus Christ – Perseus had to survive persecution and humiliation in his earliest days”, (Buxton, p. 104).Persecution and humiliation were well known to my Grandmother. In her early life she was raised in numerous foster homes without the love of a mother and father. Because she was half-Cree, Native Canadian, living with Caucasian families, she was not allowed to do many of the same things as the Caucasian children. She was not allowed to buy clothes, but instead had to sew her own, she could not eat at the same table as the Caucasian children, and she was regularly abused physically and emotionally by many foster parents. Although her early life was dark, she continued to hold on to her faith in Christianity. Her nomen est omen was accurate; her name in Latin means “Follower of Christ”, (ThinkBabyNames.com).
My Grandmother’s goal was to experience life, “living each day to the fullest, spending her endless energy on a very active social and family life”, (MacIntyre). She had an enormous love for life, incredible strength, and an extremely soft heart even throughout her nine year courageous battle with breast cancer. Perseus’ goal was similar as he too spent his energy on his family life. His goal was to protect his family, which was his mother, Danae. When Polydektes schemed to get rid of Perseus so that he could be with Danae, Perseus used the opportunity to start his heroic quest by “agreeing to fetch the head of Medusa, one of the monstrous Gorgons”, (Buxton, p. 104).
The impossible tasks my Grandmother faced in pursuing her goal to live a very active social and family life included the humiliation and abuse during her childhood years in foster homes, raising two children at the age of nineteen, and her uphill battle with breast cancer. While others may have found it difficult to continue believing in a God who bestowed such hardships during the innocent years of childhood, she remained faithful to God. Raising two children before the age of twenty was an impossible task because she was a teenager herself, yet to experience enough of life before having to teach, nurture and be responsible for two new lives. In the end, battling breast cancer was an impossible task. After four years of treatment, the cancer went into remission. Unfortunately it returned a year later and she became terminally ill. Similarly, Perseus had the impossible task of beheading Medusa, who stole the lives of men by turning them into stone; much like a merciless cancer robs man of life. Perseus’ life would have ended as well had he taken a single glance into her eyes. “By looking at Medusa’s reflection in a shield, Perseus managed to avoid her direct and lethal stare; he cut off her head with the sickle, put it into the pouch and eluded the other Gorgons by donning the cap of invisibility,” (Buxton, p. 105).
My Grandmother had a divine helper who helped her overcome her obstacles; God. She believed that God guided her to make the right choices in life and that he gave her strength to overcome the many challenges she faced. She prevailed over her obstacles with God-given strength making it through her tough foster-childhood and raising two children at a young age, and a third child later on. She displayed brawn when she used her continued strength, and brains by raising children. Throughout her life, even while battling breast cancer, she continued to follow God’s path for her to make the right decisions in life; “She put her heart and soul into her passion for helping others in need, as a compassionate and empathetic volunteer in the Palliative Care Unit of the Northern Ontario Regional Cancer Centre, the Canadian Red Cross and Meals on Wheels,” (MacIntyre). Her God-given strength throughout her battle with breast cancer helped her defeat it once, but sadly the cancer returned and after the tough five years that followed, she passed away at the young age of fifty-six. Perseus acquired similar helpers in order to accomplish his impossible task. He had help from the divine gods; Hermes, Athena, and the Graiai. “Perseus amassed the wherewithal for the task: an unbreakable sickle, a pouch, winged sandals, and a cap of invisibility,” (Buxton, p. 105). The gifts from the gods helped him to battle Medusa. He applied brains by using his shield as a mirror to find her with her reflection, avoiding her lethal stare. He also displayed brawn when he sliced off Medusa’s head with the sickle. Neither my Grandmother, nor Perseus had helper maidens, but they did have ‘bonuses’ along the way. My Grandmother had the bonus of my Grandfather who came into her life to love and support her, and Perseus had the bonus of Andromeda after saving her from being an offering to a sea-monster that was threatening the land. “…but Perseus despatched the beast and took Andromeda as his bride back to Greece,” (Buxton, p. 105). Both had companions as bonuses in their lives.
My grandmother’s journey shaped her because she reaped life’s rewards “living each day to the fullest, spending her endless energy on a very active social and family life,” (MacIntyre). She had what she wanted out of life, and entered into Heaven to be forever at peace with her God and loved ones. Perseus’ journey had a similar outcome. He was rewarded with his family, specifically with the happiness of his mother Danae, and he spent his energy protecting his family. “First on Seriphos, he used the Gorgon’s head to petrify Polydektes, who was still oppressing Danae,” (Buxton, p. 105). He had what he wanted from his journey, and it had shaped him to be proud, for he had saved his mother.
My Grandmother’s journey was a physical, emotional, and spiritual one, similar to the heroic journey of Perseus. My Grandmother endured physical pain when battling breast cancer, endured emotional pain when abused in her foster homes, and held onto her faith as she ventured on her spiritual journey here on earth and into Heaven. Perseus endured physical strife during his quest to retrieve Medusa’s head, endured emotional pain when Polydektes was oppressing his mother, Danae, and experienced spiritual help from the divinities; Hermes, Athena and the Graiai. Both Perseus and my grandmother can be considered a couple of “various individuals (who) were ‘heroized’ after death,” (Buxton, p. 102). Although many people may have viewed them as hero and heroine during their lifetimes, it was only after death that their true heroic quests and accomplishments were recognized and celebrated. No doubt, Perseus is a Greek hero. No doubt, Christiana will forever be my heroine.
Buxton, R. (2004). The Complete World of Greek Mythology. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson.
MacIntyre, S. (2009). Christiana “Chris” Ouellet Obituary. Retrieved from ObitsForLife.com – Honouring Memories. Sharing Forever.: http://www.obitsforlife.com/obituary/272243/Ouellet-Christiana.php
ThinkBabyNames.com. (2012). Christiana. Retrieved from Think Baby Names – Thinking of Names?: http://www.thinkbabynames.com/meaning/0/Christiana