by Margaret Atwood
Stanza 5 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
I don't enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical
- We have a little exposé happening in line 13 (revealing secrets about one's true motives, truths, weaknesses, etc.). Our speaker doesn't enjoy being a Siren, squatting on this island looking "picturesque and mythical." Maybe she's bored, or maybe she never wanted to be there in the first place.
- It's almost as if our speaker has removed herself from the context of her own myth and is kind of saying she's had enough of the whole thing. She doesn't want to be locked in this myth or island any longer.
- So, thematically, the speaker seems to be pointing at the problems with myths or other stories that tend to get sensationalized or blown out of proportion. We tend to overlook the real-life stuff in favor of the flat and predictable story version.
- Here we see that the "reality" of being a mythical creature isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's kind of boring in fact. And you thought studying Algebra was bad.
- Alternatively, the speaker may also be hinting at the sorts of biased ways that storytellers assign specific characteristics to villains and heroes. Villains tend to come across as two-dimensional, since storytellers don't usually have a real-life three-dimensional Siren to use as reference. In turn a villain or hero may sound flat, dull, predictable, and "mythical," in this case.
- So words like "picturesque" may really be alluding to the fact that our Siren speaker is in most cases only a picture and not the person we see here, speaking and revealing some truths behind the myth. Atwood is really breathing some human life into the Siren myth at this point.