Thursday, May 1, 2008

Theory Questions to: "Siren Song" by Margaret Atwood

Feminism Theoretical Approach

Atwood's poem, "Siren Song", introduces a heavy feminist subtext involving the stereotypes that men have about women, stereotypes that are represented by the Greek myth of the sirens. Moreover, the speaker of the poem seems to be resisting patriarchal values. Women during this time were said to be weak, subservient, and helpless and at the same time, dangerous to men and wanting to trap them into a commitment. After reading the poem a couple times it seemed to me that the poem takes a familiar myth and turns it around posing it from the siren's (women's) point of view. It could be said that it is actually a man's compulsion to always be the "hero" and save the damsel in distress and this is what ultimately leads to their destruction. Moreover, the speaker is clearly frustrated that as a female, she must perform an age old patriarchal role.


1) What do the "sirens" in Atwood's poems symbolize?

2) After reading Atwood's poem, would you say that the poem is resisting patriarchal values, why or why not?

3) If this poem was written by a male, how would we as readers interpret the poem differently?

Atwood, Margaret. "Siren Song." The Norton Introduction to Poetry. J. Paul Hunter, Alison Booth, and Kelly J. Mays. 9th edition. New York: Norton, 2007.109.


Rachael91087 said...

I liked your idea that men need to be the hero and save the ladies. ive never thought about this poem in that respect, ive only seen the point that the siren dont want to do their womanly duties anymore, interesting:)

Marissa said...

It's a really ironic poem...The speaker kind of does a really weird power shift. At the end, you realize she's been playing along with feminine stereotypes all through the poem, but she's doing it in such a way that it actually empowers her, instead of denying her of power. The mastery of those last lines about it "working every time" is really interesting.

Mrs. Bedwin said...

I agree that Atwood is playing around with power and feminine stereotypes. At first, while reading this poem, I felt sympathetic for the sirens who were trapped in their female roles ( "I don't enjoy it here/ squatting on this island/looking picturesque and mythical"). However, when i reached the end of the poem and read the line, " but it works everytime" I realized that the sirens, the women, really were the ones in power during this poem- they maipualted the sterotypical roles of women and the fact that they knew men to be stuck in their roles as heroes, to lead men to their death.
I think this poem can be seen as both resisiting and inscirbiing patriarchal roles as we see that the sirens are indeed stuck in suits which display their physical appearance only, and in a role that was written orignally by a man ( Homer), yet they use these very aspects to manipulate power. But, then again, even though the sirens are resisting male power and are manipualting the men, they have to do so within the expectations and traditional roles of women.

AmyD. said...

I think this is a great analysis, but I would also like to add something that just hit me; something that was not discussed in class. I think that there also might be something within this poem that suggests that the siren's inability to be released from her nature is some sort of parallel to the way that a woman can't help but be a woman. Although she may despise all the crap that comes with the package, she herself, cannot escape either womanhood or the things she is forced to deal with because of others view on womanhood. Do we ever stop to think that the sirens could be sick of watching man after man crash upon the rocks? Wouldn't that be a really gloomy and sad existence to watch one man after another kill himself at your expense? Then maybe it is saying something about a man's inability to escape being a man.

Kelly Flannery said...

I liked this poem because the speaker does not want to sing this song because she feels she is being forced into a role in society that she does not want to play. She does not want to succumb to this patriarchal belief. Atwood implies that no relationship the speaker has been through has gotten past the Sirens.