An Analysis of Margaret Atwood's Siren Song
Throughout her many years as a poet, Margaret Atwood has dealt with a variety of subjects within the spectrum of relationship dynamics and the way men and women behave in romantic association. In much of her poetry, Atwood has addressed the topics of female subjugation in correlation with male domination, individual dynamics, and even female domination over males within the invisible boundaries of romantic relationships. With every poem written, Atwood's method for conveying the message of the poem has remained cryptic. She uses a variety of poetic devices - sometimes layered quite thickly - to communicate those themes dealing with human emotion. In the poem, Siren Song, Margaret Atwood employs such devices as imagery and tone to express and comment on the role of the dominating "siren" that some women choose to play in their relationships.
"Siren Song" opens with the feel that the reader has just walked into a story being told by the speaker. It even seems to give the effect of literally walking a few moments late into a storytelling session. In this particular session, the speaker seems to be a woman portraying herself as a siren of ancient Greek lore. In literature, these mythological beings are most frequently described as creatures with the face of a woman and the feathered body of a bird, cursed to exist as such by the goddess Demeter. They were cursed for having stood by during the kidnapping of Demeter's daughter Persephone, when Hades whisked her away to the underworld. The sirens supposedly lived on a series of rocky islands and, with the irresistible charm of their songs, they lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding the islands. The imagery of the siren often conjures the idea of dangerous beauty and of those songs which almost inevitably prove themselves lethal. In applying this image to a female, and especially to a female playing a role in the realm of relationships gives the idea new meaning. To think of a woman as a siren is to impose the notion that she lures men into a trap to play with them, almost as a cat would toy with a mouse. Atwood's siren describes her song as, "…The song that forces men / to leap overboard in squadrons / even though they see the beached skulls," (ll 4-6). With those words, Atwood describes exactly the effect that this songstress has on her victims. It is as if those men that are lured into her clutches are well aware of the consequences of their involvement with her - as they can very well see the "beached skulls" - yet they cannot resist the temptation she presents. Just as the seafarers were to be broken on the rocks of the island inhabited by the sirens, the men that involve themselves with this modern-day siren will also be destroyed. The song remained the same over the centuries, lethal and beautiful as ever.
Atwood's siren speaks not only of the destructive nature of her song, but also of the...