The Role of the Sirens in Odyssey
The Sirens in the Odyssey represent more than just a maritime danger to the passing ship. They are the desires of man that he cannot have. The Sirens can also be construed as forbidden knowledge or some other taboo object. Whatever these singing women actually are, the sailors are wise to avoid them. As usual, the wily Odysseus cheats at the rules of the game by listening to their song under the restraints constructed by his crew.
In their critical review, Horkheimer and Adorno treat the song of the Sirens as a forbidden knowledge of everything. The Sirens represent man's enlightenment. The two writers state, "Even though the Sirens know all that has happened, they demand the future as the price of that knowledge, and the promise of the happy return is the deception with which the past ensnares the one who longs for it" (Horkheimer and Adorno 48). Even though these critical readers do not mention it, they have repeated a story from the Bible. Adam and Eve also sought enlightenment. Once they tasted the apple and gained knowledge, their future and that of humanity's was forever changed. The Tree of Knowledge was a siren for them.
In a different review, Maurice Blanchot compares the Sirens in the Odyssey to Moby Dick. Ahab was destroyed by his siren, which was an elusive whale named Moby Dick. Blanchot points out, "Ahab and the whale are engaged in a drama, what we can call a metaphysical drama, using the word loosely, and the Sirens and Ulysses are engaged in the same struggle...The result is a sort of victory for him, a dark disaster for Ahab"...