Analysis of Margaret Atwood's "Siren Song"

             From its undistinguished title and neat, fluid three-line stanzas Margaret Atwood's "Siren Song" permits the reader to clearly and accurately absorb her theme. Yet, her allusion to Homer's great work, the "Odyssey", requires the reader to know the importance of the charming song of the fabled Sirens. First referenced in Greek mythology, the Sirens were sea nymphs blessed with an inviting song of intoxicating voice that lured sailors to their deaths. Atwood uses this mythical image to provide the foundation upon which she builds the subject of her poem. She illuminates the relationship between temptation and the price of fulfilling it. Her attempt might be directed appropriately to the nature of the male ego (Homer's victims were, of course, men) or determined to encompass all who face temptation. Whether it is a married man facing a tempting adulteress, a junkie with a sweet needle loaded in her hand, or a reader engrossed in poetic verse, temptation, unchecked, can crash a victim upon its' shores. Void of a complex or ambiguous title, she clearly presents the subject matter in the same manner.

             This is the one song everyone.

             would like to learn: the song.

             that is irresistible:.

             the song that forces men.

             to leap overboard in squadrons.

             even though they see the beached skulls.

             the song nobody knows.

             because anyone who has heard it.

             is dead, and the others can't remember.

             Atwood teases the reader by provocatively describing the song as "irresistible" in the first stanza. Like the lure of the Sirens themselves, Atwood provides an almost sensual intrigue to continue reading by asserting the song "forces men" to their fates. She further entices the audience by inferring the "beached skulls" are the remnants of those that have passed and failed this temptation before. In third stanza Atwood titillates the audience to know the "song nobody knows" despite the fact that death may be its ultimate outcome.

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