Analysis of “Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood
In Greek mythology, mythical creatures depicted as half-bird and half-women known as Sirens lure sailors toward them via the use of their dulcet song. To onlookers and sailors alike, the use of their song is entrancing, yet to the Sirens themselves, that is not particularly the case. Moreover, the song produced by the Sirens is often interpreted in different ways; to sailors, the song is melodious and ravishing, but to the Sirens, however, it is obnoxious and repetitive.
In the poem “Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood, a Siren expresses her feelings about the experience of singing the song in a monotonous tone on an island. She states the situation she has found herself in is unpleasant, partly due to her accomplices. “I don’t enjoy it here / squatting on this island / looking picturesque and mythical / with these two feathery maniacs” (Atwood). Due to the irritating wild behavior being effused by the other Sirens, she cannot help but loathe the situation as a whole. Being subjected to their harsh demeanors triggers her distaste in the contribution of the song. Furthermore, the Siren attempts to speed up the repetitive interaction with the audience of the poem by stating the song is a “cry for help” and can only be helped by the reader in question. This tactic is used to persuade the victim into dying sooner, allowing the Siren to escape the situation as fast as possible.
In Homer’s Greek epic poem, Odysseus, a legendary Greek hero, finds himself drifting towards the Sirens’ island. In an attempt to prevent others from being subjected to the hypnotizing song that was being produced, he stuffs the ears of each of his crew members with beeswax. He then has himself bound to the mast of the ship, becoming vulnerable to the melodious sounds. Being captivated by the Sirens via the use of descriptive words such as “Achaea’s pride and glory” and “famous”, he cannot help but demand to be untethered in an urgent tone. The repetition of demands made by the Sirens and Odysseus helps shed light on the seriousness of the situation and the powerful effect the song has on individuals.
Though reactions during the Siren/human interaction appear to differ, the interpretations of the situation afterward are quite alike. Despite referring to the song as “ravishing” while it captivated him, Odysseus returns to his senses and began to process the situation sensibly. Similarly, in the “Siren Song” poem, the Siren states “Alas / it is a boring song” (Atwood), following the failure to enthrall her victim. Therefore both the victim and perpetrator understand the true circumstances of the situation involving the song, yet not initially. This shows the true nature of the song as it can be viewed as tedious and captivating until its eventual end.
In conclusion, the song produced by the Sirens is interpreted in different ways. As depicted in the “Siren Song” poem, the Sirens find the song obnoxious and repetitive due to the situation presented with it. To the sailors, however, the song is viewed as melodious and ravishing, presently apparent in Homer’s Greek epic poem about Odysseus.