by Margaret Atwood
Siren Song Theme of Isolation
As villainous as the Sirens may appear in "Siren Song" and other Greek myths, we also recognize that these ladies are suffering too. Our speaker is isolated with two "feathery maniacs" on an island she can never leave. Sounds like a blast, right? So our villain isn't without her own vulnerabilities and tragedy, which gives her something more than just the flat two-dimensional interpretations we usually see. On a deeper level, we may imagine our speaker as being isolated in her own myth, due to the biases of writers and mythologists who tend to sketch their characters with limiting characteristics.
Questions About Isolation
- What's important about the symbolism of an island, in terms of isolation? Is there something tragic about the Siren's circumstances? What parts of the poem support your answer?
- How does the speaker make us feel bad for her? Do we still feel the same way by the very end of the poem? Why or why not?
- Is there anything ironic about the speaker revealing her own dissatisfaction and isolation on an island of "beached skulls"?
- Why might the speaker feel isolated in a place that is "picturesque and mythical"? Wouldn't everyone want to live in his or her own myth that's picturesque? What parts of the poem support your answer?
Chew on This
Being the star of your own myth isn't all it's cracked up to be in "Siren Song." In fact, it becomes the reason why the speaker feels so isolated on that "picturesque" island.
Villains suffer too in "Siren Song," which suggests that they're not always the two-dimensional characters we would like them to be. (Check out Darth Vader in the final minutes of Return of the Jedi for another example.)