The Odyssey

Effective Irony: The Sirens in Homer's and Atwood's Writings 12th Grade

Homer’s Odyssey and Margaret Atwood’s “Siren Song” each depict the great power of the Sirens of Greek mythology; on a deeper level, the two works explore the destructiveness of women through the archetype of the femme fatale. Both Homer and Atwood highlight the influence women have over men through the irresistible temptations of the Sirens. However, through the juxtaposition of the two opposing points of view of each poem, two differing portrayals of the Sirens emerge.

Written in the point of view of Odysseus, Homer’s poem emphasizes the qualities of masculinity and strength, suggesting that the Sirens, though formidable, are no match for the Odysseus and his crew. Odysseus recalls his “trim ship…speeding toward / the Sirens’ island” (1-2), immediately setting a tone of confidence despite the precarious situation he finds himself in, his diction suggesting that the situation is totally within his control. In preparation for the encounter with the Sirens, Odysseus kneads the wax with his “two strong hands” (4) and administers the precautionary measure to his “comrades one by one” (7) before being “lashed by ropes to the mast” (9) himself, indirectly characterizing the Sirens as overtly dangerous and powerful through the...

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