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Odyssey/Siren Song Essay

Homer’s epic poem Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus’ encounter with the Sirens and their deadly song which is shown in Margaret Atwood’s poem “Siren Song.” When comparing each text, it is found that the Sirens are portrayed as temptresses that trap you with their beautiful, “honeyed voices.”

The tone in the epic poem is bright in the beginning when Homer writes “Helios’ burning rays” and “the sun at high noon.” As the poem progresses, it takes on an ominous tone that shows Odysseus’ self-control as he “stop[s] the ears of [his] comrades one by one” with beeswax. He also has his men “[bind him] hand and foot in the tight ship…lashed by ropes to the mast.” These two examples show Odysseus fighting against his desire to listen to the Siren’s song.

When Homer writes “and the heart inside me throbbed to listen longer” it shows how very hard it is for Odysseus to ignore the Siren’s call. In Margaret Atwood’s poem, the tone that is set is one of bereavement. The three Sirens understand that they are beautiful and that their call is tempting to every man but they consider the song as a “cry for help.” The Siren that is speaking in “Siren Song” refers to her trio as “fatal and valuable.”

Imagery is used in both of the texts to portray the Sirens as beautiful women. For example, from Homer’s first-person point of view, they have “honeyed [and] ravishing voices,” and from Atwood’s first-person point of view, the Siren speaks of the trio as “picturesque” and “mythical.” The Siren that is speaking in Atwood’s poem refers to her trip as “feathery maniacs.” The imagery in this poem makes you pick up a subtle tone that the Sirens are like temptresses. They reel in the men with their gorgeous, tricky call even though the men can see the “beached skull” which symbolizes their fate of death. Their song may be “boring” but, in the Siren’s words, “it works every time.”

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