What if there is something so irresistible that all resolve is lost? The Sirens are a group of women who sing a song so captivating that ships are constantly lured to their island. They are often rendered as birds with the head of a woman. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus and his men must pass the island of the Sirens in order to return to Ithaca, their homeland. In order to prevent his men from jumping overboard towards the enchanting song, Odysseus plugs his men’s ears with wax, and then he is tied down and listens to the song. The song compels Odysseus head towards the island, but his obedient men ignore his hysterical cries. Another portrayal of the Sirens is in a poem by Margaret Atwood entitled “Siren Song.” The poem lures the reader in by making them feel pity for the speaker, who turns out to be a Siren. These two pieces of literature can be compared using poetic devices like tone, point of view, and imagery.
Homer and Atwood use different tones in order to portray the same group of creatures. Homer uses an alert and tense tone when mentioning the Sirens. The alert tone is first sensed when the crew begins to pass the island: “We were just offshore … when the Sirens sensed at once a ship / was racing past and burst into their high, thrilling song: ‘Come closer, famous Odysseus …’ ” (Homer 11, 12-14). This moment in Odysseus’s voyage is also very tense; the life of his men and his own life is in danger. The Sirens also sound attentive and ready to capture their prey. Instead of sounding tense and alert, Atwood goes with a sad, mysterious tone. The speaker sounds gloomy and forlorn, but there is a strange aura surrounding her:
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 4-9).
The word choice Atwood uses draws the audience in like a freshly baked chocolate cake. Then, she catches them off guard at the end like the head popping out of that cake. The tone the authors choose to convey in these two pieces is heavily influenced by the point of view.
Margaret Atwood’s “Siren Song” and Homer’s Odyssey are told by two completely different speakers. Atwood uses a Siren to tell her story, and Homer uses the hero Odysseus as his speaker. Because the point of view is first person, the pieces are going to be biased. The Sirens are going to be partial towards themselves. The Siren makes the audience feel significant by telling them, “I will tell the secret to you / to you, only to you … Help me! / Only you … can,” (Atwood 19-20, 22-23). The Siren...