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An Analysis of Margaret Atwood’s Siren Song

An Analysis of Margaret Atwood’s Siren Song

Throughout her many years as a poet, Margaret Atwood has dealt with a variety of subjects within the spectrum of relationship dynamics and the way men and women behave in romantic association. In much of her poetry, Atwood has addressed the topics of female subjugation in correlation with male domination, individual dynamics, and even female domination over males within the invisible boundaries of romantic relationships. With every poem written, Atwood’s method for conveying the message of the poem has remained cryptic. She uses a variety of poetic devices – sometimes layered quite thickly – to communicate those themes dealing with human emotion. In the poem, Siren Song, Margaret Atwood employs such devices as imagery and tone to express and comment on the role of the dominating “siren” that some women choose to play in their relationships.

“Siren Song” opens with the feel that the reader has just walked into a story being told by the speaker. It even seems to give the effect of literally walking a few moments late into a storytelling session. In this particular session, the speaker seems to be a woman portraying herself as a siren of ancient Greek lore. In literature, these mythological beings are most frequently described as creatures with the face of a woman and the feathered body of a bird, cursed to exist as such by the goddess Demeter. They were cursed for having stood by during the kidnapping of Demeter’s daughter Persephone, when Hades whisked her away to the underworld. The sirens supposedly lived on a series of rocky islands and, with the irresistible charm of their songs, they lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding the islands. The ima…

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… with them without denying herself the right to exist on her own terms. She does not fear her own nature, and she is not afraid to play the dominant role. Being a siren, though, means never truly getting close to anyone – victims do not last long – and so, on some level, her words must be double-edged. She may not be afraid and she may not regret the so-called deaths of these men, but she does seem to regret the death of something else. Perhaps this something else is her own heart, now seemingly incapable of ‘normal’ sentiment. This siren may not only be a portrait of a specific female role in romantic relationships, but she may also be a form of commentary on that role. The siren may also be seen as a depiction of the loneliness that stems from toying with the human heart. With her song, she provides a warning to the readers about the fate that follows such games.

lighthod Binary Oppositions in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Binary Oppositions in Heart of Darkness

In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad used a series of reversed traditional binary oppositions to convey the theme that every man has his own heart of darkness that is simply masked by the superficial light of civilization.

The novella focused primarily on the adventurer Charlie Marlow’s journey into the African Congo, but dealt with larger themes. Marlow was from Europe and understood the basic premises of imperialism, but was unprepared for the world he encountered in the wilderness. The world of the African jungle did not abide, at that time, by the same laws with which Marlow had been raised. There was an inherent savagery in the jungle that he had not previously encountered and for which he was unprepared. This is first apparent when Marlow encountered the shaded death grove early on in his journeys. Marlow saw the natives suffering immensely for what seemed to be nothing – their work seemed for naught – but he did not speak up or stop his trek. This is also the first time that the reader gets a glimpse of the broader binary oppositions within the text. Marlow glanced at one of the dying natives, one with a piece of white European yarn tied around his neck. In the area that is the Outer Station, the white Europeans had the natives – and vicariously the jungle nature, as the natives became symbols for the land surrounding each station – in a stranglehold. In this case, the color white, usually associated with purity or goodness, became a symbol for the evil that was imperialist colonialism. The black of the native’s skin, bearing the color often associated with evil and inner darkness, is a stark contrast to the white of the yarn. The fact that Marlow responded with q…

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… oppositions, it becomes clear that it is only through the pretense of civilization that mankind is able to resist the internal darkness inherent in its nature. However, the intensity of civilized behavior is directly related to the physical and moral environment in which humans are placed, and is therefore unstable. Through Kurtz and Marlow, and their underlying binary oppositions, Joseph Conrad proved that every man has a heart of darkness that is often obscured by the false illumination of a civilized society.

Works Cited and Consulted

Adelman, Gary. Heart of Darkness: Search for the Unconscious. Boston: Little

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